Provide the summary for The Catcher in the Rye.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story begins on Holden Caulfield's last day at Pencey Prep School in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. Holden has flunked out of school and wishes to leave a few days before the semester ends. Holden initially visits a teacher named Mr. Spencer to say goodbye but leaves shortly after Mr. Spencer gives him life advice. Holden then returns to his dormitory, where he agrees to write a composition for his roommate Stradlater, who is going on a date with Holden's friend and romantic interest, Jane Gallagher. When Stradlater returns from his date, Holden becomes furious at the possibility that Stradlater made sexual advances towards Jane, and Holden ends up getting into a fight with him.

Holden then leaves Pencey Prep School in the middle of the night and takes a train to New York City. When Holden arrives at New York City, he tells his taxi driver to take him to the Edmont Hotel, where he checks in. Shortly after calling Faith Cavendish, Holden visits the Lavender Room, where he dances with three superficial girls. As Holden leaves the Lavender Room, he recalls the time he attempted to make out with Jane Gallagher. Holden then takes a cab to Ernie’s jazz club in Greenwich Village, where he meets one of his brother's former girlfriends. After having an annoying conversation, Holden walks back to the Edmont Hotel.

Holden then meets an elevator operator named Maurice, who offers him an opportunity to sleep with a prostitute. Holden agrees, but cannot bring himself to have sex with Sunny. After Maurice insists that Holden pay him more than they agreed upon, Maurice punches Holden in the stomach and takes his money.

The next day, Holden goes on a terrible date with Sally Hayes, where he ends up calling her a "pain in the ass." Later that night, Holden meets Carl Luce at the Wicker Bar and ends up getting extremely intoxicated. Holden then leaves the bar and walks through Central Park alone to look at the lagoon. He then walks home and sneaks into his house to have a conversation with his younger sister, Phoebe. Holden then tells his sister that when he grows up, he would like to be a "catcher in the rye," saving children from running off cliffs. Holden also tells his sister that he plans on moving out West.

Holden then leaves his family's apartment when his parents return home and visits his old teacher named Mr. Antolini. However, Holden does not spend the night after he wakes up and Mr. Antolini is petting him on his head. Holden leaves the apartment immediately and ends up spending the night in Grand Central Station.

The next day, Holden visits Phoebe's school and leaves a note telling her to meet him at lunchtime in the museum. When Phoebe arrives, she is carrying a suitcase and asks to leave New York with Holden. After Holden tells her that she cannot come, Phoebe becomes upset and refuses to speak to him. Holden then walks to the zoo and Phoebe follows along. Holden ends up buying his sister a ticket to ride the carousel and watches as his sister enjoys the attraction. Holden finally feels happy watching his sister ride the carousel. Holden then ends his narrative and explains to the reader how he will not tell them the story of how he returned home and got "sick."

kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The novel stars Holden Caulfield. It starts a little while before Christmas vacation. Holden is kicked out of Pencey Prep school. He goes out alone in New York City. Holden’s story is a first person account, from a mental facility.

Holden's story starts at the prep school which he describes as being "phony." The day of the Pencey football game is highlighted. Holden walks to his history teacher’s house, Mr. Spencer. The visit isn’t good. Later, he is beat up by his roommate over a girl.After the fight, Holden leaves Pencey. He leaves in the night.

By train, he goes to New York City, where his family had lived. He registers at an oldish hotel, the Edmont Hotel. Many events happen: dancing with tourist girls and time with a prostitute. Holden gets rid of the prostitute but doesn’t pay her enough. Holden gets beat up again.

Holden spends two days in the city being drunk. He meets up with an old friend, Carl Luce and Sally Hayes, an old girlfriend. Holden sneaks into his parents' apartment and talks with Phoebe, his little sister. Then he visits his former English teacher, Mr. Antolini who makes passes at him in the night.

Holden is depressed. He spends his time wandering around New York City. What upsets Holden the most is that he has no protection from the phoniness of the world or the perverts. He goes to his sister’s school and sees bad words on the walls. He has a vision of himself as a savior, as a “catcher in the rye”—standing at the edges of a field where children are running and playing, he guards them, keeps them from falling.

In the last few pages his time recovering at the institution made him calmer.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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