The main character in The Catcher in the Rye is Holden Caulfield. Holden is a 16 year old boy who has been kicked out of another fancy prep school for failing 4 out of 5 subjects. As the son of prominent, financially wealthy parents, Holden has been to two other fancy schools before Pencey Prep and has been unable to succeed at any of them.
His personality is dominated by insecurity and anxiety, he has no real friends, he is a loner, isolated with his depression and his grief over the loss of his younger brother Allie from leukemia 3 years earlier. Holden has an older brother, D.B. who is a writer in Hollywood, something that Holden finds very phony and insincere. D.B. prostitutes himself, Holden says, because he does not write serious books, but scripts for Hollywood movies. He makes lots of money, something else that Holden finds phony.
Holden's experience at Pencey Prep illustrates his personality. His roommate is Stradlater, a confident, handsome young man who is very popular with the girls. He dates Jane Gallagher one Saturday night and this causes Holden great distress. Jane is a girl Holden met one summer in Maine, he carries a torch for her, keeps her safely tucked away in his memory, but never calls her. Even when she is on the Pencey Prep campus, Holden does not go down and say hello to her. Jane is his dream girl, he views her as pure and good, wholesome and rare, someone he shared his pain over the loss of his brother Allie with, Jane understood, she has an abusive stepfather.
Holden's other acquaintances at Pencey Prep include Ackley who is his dorm neighbor. This young man is viewed by Holden to be a total loser, he has acne, bad hygiene and is very nosy. Ackley, although not well-liked by others, is very particular about who he hangs out with, and is not easily led to do things he doesn't like.
Holden's little sister Phoebe is the most important person in his life. She is 10 years old, but is mature beyond her age. She is the only person who can talk to Holden and give him the truth, and he listens to her! Phoebe eventually saves Holden from his own bad decisions at the end of the book. It is Holden's sadness at saying goodbye to her that causes him to reconsider leaving NYC for the West.
Other characters in the book include: Sally Hayes, a girl that Holden dates, a pretty, popular girl who also attends a fancy prep school. Holden likes her and hates her, she is vain and shallow, not interested in having a real conversation and Holden ends up insulting her and she walks out on their date.
Mr. Spencer is his History teacher from Pencey Prep, Holden has a special relationship with him. He goes to his home to say goodbye before he leaves Pencey, the old man gives him a lecture about owning up to responsibility...
and taking charge of life. Holden is scared of responsibility and runs out of the Spencer house as fast as he can.
Mr. Antolini is another teacher, from Elkton Hills, a former school that Holden attended. Holden seeks refuge at the Antolini apartment after he has a run in at the seedy hotel. At Antolini's, he finds the old teacher drinking and partying with friends. Holden tries to sleep on the couch, but wakes up to find the older man stroking his cheek. Immediately, Holden thinks that Antolini is a homosexual making advances. He rushes out of the apartment in the middle of the night ending up at Grand Central Station sleeping on the bench.