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The novel discusses the complex nature of its protagonist, Holden Caulfield. The opening of the work takes place at Pencey Prep, the school where Holden attends, but has been thrown out due to low grades. Holden is wrapping up his time there, and in the last couple of days, which we have been given a glimpse, we understand the nature of both Pencey Prep and Holden, himself. Holden detests the school as he sees it as not "a finishing school for young men," but rather a factory of conformity that produces phony individuals. Holden discusses some of these people, like Stradlater, Ackley, or one of his teachers, Mr. Spencer. Through individual stories, the phoniness becomes too much for Holden, who leaves one night, yelling at his classmates while they sleep. Understanding that he cannot go home immediately, as his early arrival will bring with it questions from his parents, the novel then shifts to New York City and Holden's experiences within it. Here again, we see Holden's complex nature, as he demonstrates himself to be, at moments, not a very nice person, yet showing himself to be sensitive enough to not be comfortable with taking advantage of women. This dynamic is brought out from his time at Pencey Prep to New York City. Such complexities are brought fully to the surface in the last part of the work, where Holden goes home. His hatred of the world is equally matched by the love he holds for his sister, Phoebe. Their dialogues reveal his very strong sense of pessimism coexists with a strong optimism, as shown in his desire to want to run away from home, yet not be completely abandon his life with Phoebe. Holden may dislike human beings, but he envisions himself as "a catcher in the rye," as someone who will save children off of the edge of a cliff when they are in trouble. The work ends with Holden telling his parents about his being thrown out of Pencey.
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