The Catcher in the Rye Summary

The Catcher in the Rye summary

In The Catcher in the Rye, narrator Holden Caulfield gets expelled from prep school. He must decide whether to return home to his parents or start a new life on his own. He takes his younger sister Phoebe to the zoo, where she rides on a carousel.

The Catcher in the Rye summary key points:

  • On his last day at Pencey, Holden spends time with Ackley and Stradlater. He then heads to New York where he meets three female tourists and has a disappointing encounter with a prostitute.

  • The next day, Holden enjoys breakfast with two nuns. He has a dispute with his girlfriend Sally, sneaks into his house to see his sister Phoebe, and then attempts to spend the night at the home of his former English teacher but leaves abruptly following an awkward encounter.

  • The following day, Phoebe meets Holden and declares that she will run away with him. He assures her that he is going home rather than running away, and the two visit the zoo.


Summary of the Novel
The story covers a three-day period in the life of Holden Caulfield. He has been notified that he has just flunked out of prep school, and he begins his journey home, where he must face his parents. He is also considering whether he should simply go out west and start a new life, rather than go home at all.

Before he leaves Pencey, Ackley, the boy who lives in the next room, comes over to visit. Ackley has several personal habits which make him unappealing, but Holden tolerates him. Stradlater, Holden’s roommate, then comes in to freshen up for a date. Although Stradlater is handsome and has the veneer of sincerity, Holden thinks he is a phony. That evening, in New York City, Holden joins three female tourists in a nightclub and gets stuck with the check. Back at his hotel, he accepts an offer from the elevator operator for some female companionship. When the girl arrives, he is depressed by the hollowness of an encounter with a prostitute and tells her that he is not in the mood for sex.

The next day, Sunday, Holden meets two nuns at breakfast. He enjoys their conversation and insists on giving them a contribution. That afternoon, he takes his old girlfriend, Sally, to see a play. Still ambivalent about going home, Holden tries to talk Sally into running away with him. When he insults her, she asks him to leave. Later, he goes home and sneaks into the house to see his sister, Phoebe, before he runs away. After they talk, he decides to spend the night at the home of his former English teacher, Mr. Antolini. Holden suspects that his former teacher is a pervert when he is awakened by Mr. Antolini petting him on the head. Holden makes up a flimsy excuse about getting his bags from the train station and bolts from the apartment.

Holden continues to be obsessed by his plan to go out west. On Monday morning, he writes Phoebe a note at her school asking her to meet him near the Metropolitan Museum. Phoebe meets him with suitcase in hand. She has decided to run away with him, but he tells her that he is not going away after all. They visit the zoo, and then Phoebe wants to ride the carousel in the park. Before she gets on, he confirms to her that he really is going home. While standing in a soaking rain, watching Phoebe ride the carousel, he feels so happy that he is on the verge of tears.

The novel is divided into three sections, with the first chapter as an introduction and the last chapter as an epilogue. The first part includes Chapters Two through Seven, covering the period at Pencey Prep. Chapters Eight through Twenty make up the second part, which recounts Holden’s wandering about New York, and ends with his decision to go home. Chapters Twenty-one through Twenty-five describe his time with Phoebe. Holden is the narrator of the story which is told as a “flashback.”

Estimated Reading Time
The average reader should be able to read the book in four to six hours. The colloquial and engaging style of Holden’s narration makes for a quick read. The reading could be broken down into two or three two-hour sittings, though many readers are able, if they have the time, to read the book in one long sitting.

The Catcher in the Rye Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

More than most modern novels, The Catcher in the Rye is about identity. It tells of the often frustrating and futile search for self by a young person wandering in an adult urban world. Holden Caulfield’s emotional development has been arrested by the death of his younger brother Allie, and by a series of encounters that have shown him just what a “phony” world he is trying to grow up into. In the weekend in New York City that the novel chronicles, Holden searches for self, and, at the end, finds it.

The only good people in the novel are the innocent (his dead brother, his younger sister Phoebe, a pair of nuns he meets) and the misfits (former classmates Richard Kinsella and James Castle), who violate the rigid rules adults have set up for them. The adults Holden admires (his brother and his former teacher, Mr. Antolini) appear to have sold out. Holden is caught in mid-growth between the purity of childhood and the inevitable fall into adulthood. By the end of the novel, he realizes he has no sanctuary left (the Museum of Natural History he loved to visit has been contaminated), but he somehow feels happy sitting in the rain and watching Phoebe on the carousel in Central Park. It is a closing image of peace and acceptance: “The thing with kids is,” Holden writes tellingly at the end, “if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything.” Holden is not through with his problems—he will soon suffer some kind of collapse and be institutionalized—but he has successfully let go of childhood and made the move toward adulthood.

The continuing popularity of The Catcher in the Rye—selling 250,000 copies in peak years—indicates that Holden’s search for identity struck a responsive chord in many readers. Apparently, the difficulties of adolescence Salinger describes continue to be universal. The book’s popularity also comes from Salinger’s style and the way he has caught so perfectly the slangy vernacular of his young hero. Few characters in modern literature are so sharply defined by their language. All the readers who for generations have identified with Holden worldwide have seen in this character something of their own struggles for identity.

The Catcher in the Rye Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Holden Caulfield is expelled from Pencey Prep, in Agerstown, Pennsylvania, just before Christmas. Before leaving his preparatory school, Holden says good-bye to Mr. Spencer, one of the Pencey teachers with whom he had good rapport, and has an altercation with his roommate, Ward Stradlater, and a dormitory neighbor, Robert Ackley. A disagreement over a composition Holden agreed to write for Stradlater and Holden’s anger with Stradlater’s treatment of the latter’s weekend date, whom Holden knows and likes, precipitates a fight in which Holden is cut and bruised. Holden sets out by train to New York City. Since he is not expected at his home in the city for Christmas vacation for a few days, he decides to stop at a city hotel and contact some friends.

Holden tries to pick up some women in the hotel bar, takes in a show at Radio City Music Hall, and visits a local café. Upon returning to his hotel, he is approached by the elevator man, Maurice, who arranges for a prostitute to come to Holden’s room. Holden prefers conversation to sex, however, and after he refuses to pay the woman for her services, Maurice arrives and beats Holden. After attending a play with a former girlfriend, Sally, Holden gets drunk in a bar and sits alone in Central Park, thinking, as he often does, about how lonely and depressed he is.

Finally, late at night, Holden goes home. His parents are out for the evening, and he spends some time talking with his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe, with whom he was always very close. Phoebe expresses her disappointment with Holden’s being expelled from school, and brother and sister talk at length about what Holden truly believes in and what he will do with his life. Holden tells Phoebe of his idealistic vision of being a “catcher in the rye,” protecting innocent children from disaster. He imagines children playing in a field of rye and himself catching them whenever they are in danger of falling over a cliff. He avoids seeing his parents on their return home and goes to see a former teacher, Mr. Antolini, from whom he intends to seek advice.

Mr. Antolini and his wife receive Holden warmly, and he is invited to spend the night. He listens carefully to Mr. Antolini’s ideas on Holden’s future. To Holden’s shock and dismay, however, Mr. Antolini makes what Holden understands to be sexual advances, and he leaves the Antolini apartment hurriedly. He spends the rest of the night in Grand Central Station.

The next day, Holden visits Phoebe at her school and tells her of his plans to begin a new life in the West. Holden’s story ends with his good-bye to Phoebe, but the novel’s first and last chapters indicate that he has a nervous breakdown of sorts. He tells the story while in a hospital, apparently in California.

The Catcher in the Rye Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger’s only full-length novel, is the work that made him famous and for which he is remembered by high school and college students throughout America and much of the world. It has been translated into nearly every major language and continues to be assigned reading in many high school and college classrooms (though it has also been banned from many high school classrooms for allegedly obscene language and sexual situations). Its utterly convincing portrayal of the thoughts, words, and feelings of a troubled adolescent has permanently influenced entire generations of young people, as well as writers throughout the world.

The book opens with these words from Holden:If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like . . . and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. . . . I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy.

The opening paragraph is emblematic of the book in several ways. First, it introduces the reader immediately to Holden’s essential character—his cynicism, irreverence, and complicated mixture of frankness and evasiveness. Eventually the reader comes to learn that “out here” is actually a psychiatric hospital in California and that Holden has been sent there for observation and treatment, not merely to “take it easy.” Second, the language Holden uses to begin his story gives further insight into his character. Several phrases appear here which will serve as refrains for the novel: “If you really want to hear about it,” “I don’t feel like . . . ,” “if you want to know the truth,” and “madman.” Holden’s language is both representative of the typical adolescent of his time and place and indicative of his personal fears and frustrations. “If you really want to hear about it” and “if you want to know the truth” reflect Holden’s despair that most people really do not want to know the truth. “I don’t feel like . . .” demonstrates the emotional paralysis that contributes to Holden’s breakdown, and “madman” expresses his fear of going crazy, not only going crazy himself, but the world going crazy as well. “This madman stuff” is everything that led up to Holden’s collapse, beginning with his ejection from Pencey for “failing everything but English.”

Holden begins his account with a description of the school and the “phonies” in it: administrators, teachers, and students. Phoniness is one of the many things that Holden says “drive me crazy” or “make me puke,” another example of a slang expression pointing to an underlying truth—that the corruption of the world makes him physically ill. Holden despises his fellow students for being physically repulsive, like Ackley, the pimply boy with bad teeth in the room next door, or for being too attractive, like Stradlater, Holden’s “handsome, charming bastard” of a roommate. Strangely enough, Holden ends up missing these same people, and practically everyone he has met, by the end of the book—typical of the mixture of attraction and repulsion life holds for him. Following a fight with Stradlater about a girl both boys have dated, Holden decides to leave Pencey in the middle of the night and, after shouting “Sleep tight, ya morons!” by way of farewell, walks to the station to catch a train to New York City.

Once in the city, Holden is unsure what to do. He is afraid to go home and let his parents know he has been kicked out of school, so he ends up taking a room at the sleazy Edmont Hotel. He spends the night watching “perverts” in the opposite wing of the hotel, thinking about calling up old girlfriends (but deciding he’s “not in the mood”), and going to bars seeking companionship. In the bars he finds only pitiful, boring, or “phony” people, so he eventually returns to the hotel, where an encounter with a teenage prostitute and her pimp gets him beaten up. He then leaves the hotel and goes to Grand Central Station to eat breakfast, where he meets a pair of nuns on their way to teach school and discusses Romeo and Juliet with one of them. (Religion and literature are frequent subjects for Holden’s commentary.)

Holden spends the rest of the day wandering along Broadway and around Central Park. It is on Broadway that he observes the scene which gives the book its title: A family is walking home from church: “a father, a mother, and a little kid about six years old.” The boy is walking in the street, next to the curb, singing a song that Holden hears as “if a body catch a body coming through the rye”: “The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing ’If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’” It is not until Holden sneaks home to visit his sister Phoebe, near the end of the book, that he explains the significance of the scene:I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.

It is here that Holden expresses most clearly what is bothering him: the inevitable loss of innocence involved in growing up. Other than children, the only people Holden respects completely (outside books) are the two nuns, who have managed to remain unstained by the world. Holden realizes that it is nearly impossible for a child to grow up in the world and remain innocent, so his greatest wish is somehow to protect all children from the danger of going over the “crazy cliff” of adulthood. For Holden, the passage to adulthood proves to be a crazy cliff indeed.

The Catcher in the Rye Summary

Men at the Swing Rendezvous club in Greenwich Village, 1955. Published by Gale Cengage

The Catcher in the Rye introduces Holden Caulfield, who ranks with Huckleberry Finn among the most celebrated adolescent heroes in...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter Summary and Analysis

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Holden Caulfield: the narrator of the story

D.B.: Holden’s brother

Selma Thurmer: the headmaster’s daughter

Mr. Spencer: Holden’s history teacher at Pencey Prep

Robert Tichener: a student at Pencey Prep

Paul Campbell: a student at Pencey Prep

Mr. Zambesi: the biology teacher at Pencey Prep

Mrs. Spencer: the wife of Mr. Spencer, the history teacher

Holden, the narrator, is telling the story from a place in California, near Hollywood. Because he is run down physically, and is probably mentally exhausted as well, it appears that he is in a sanitarium to recover and...

(The entire section is 740 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mr. Haas: the headmaster at Elkton Hills School

Dr. Thurmer: the headmaster at Pencey Prep

Holden is led into the bedroom by Mrs. Spencer, where Mr. Spencer is sitting in a chair, still not fully recovered from the grippe. Holden liked Mr. Spencer as much, if not more than he liked any adult, and was disappointed to find that he was to be lectured. The tone of the lecture was condescending and included reading aloud from Holden’s failing examination paper. Holden was humiliated and disappointed that Mr. Spencer would do this. The lecture was laced with the clichés adults reserve for children when they are scolding them, e.g., how do you...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Robert Ackley: the boy who lives in the room next to Holden

Herb Gale: Ackley’s roommate

Edgar Marsalla: the student who created a disturbance during a talk by Mr. Ossenburger

Mr. Ossenburger: alumnus and benefactor of Pencey Prep, after whom the dormitory wing, in which Holden lives, was named

Ward Stradlater: Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep

Holden returns to his room in the Ossenburger Memorial Wing of the dormitory. Ossenburger, an undertaker, is an alumnus and benefactor of Pencey Prep. Mr. Ossenburger spoke to the student body earlier in the year about the role Jesus played in his life. Holden...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Howie Coyle: a student and basketball player at Pencey Prep

Jane Gallagher: an old friend of Holden’s who goes on a date with Stradlater

Holden engages in conversation with Stradlater while he prepares for his date. Holden makes a point of describing Stradlater as a person who is excessively concerned about his personal appearance, but, in reality, is a “secret slob.” While he is shaving, Stradlater asks Holden to do him a favor: to write a composition for him. He cautions Holden not to make it too good, for fear that the teacher will discover that Stradlater really did not write it. Further discussion reveals that Stadlater’s date...

(The entire section is 610 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mal Brossard: a friend of Holden’s who is on the wrestling team and with whom Holden goes into Agerstown

Allie: Holden’s younger brother who died of leukemia

After the Saturday night steak dinner at Pencey, Holden makes plans to go to the movies with Mal Brossard and asks Ackley to join them. It happens that both Mal and Ackley have seen the movie, so they have hamburgers, play the pinball machine, and return to the dorm by 8:45 p.m. Brossard goes to look for a bridge game and Ackley comes into Holden’s room and discusses his sexual exploits, which Holden has heard before. Finally, Holden asks him to leave and begins writing the...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Ed Banky: the basketball coach at Pencey; owned the car which Stradlater borrowed for his date with Jane Gallagher

Mrs. Schmidt: the janitor’s wife

Holden has been worried all evening that Stradlater would take advantage of Jane while on their date. By the time Stradlater returns, Holden is furious with him. Holden is made even angrier when Stradlater does not like the essay which Holden had written for him. Holden immediately tears it up and throws it away.

Holden, not very discreetly, tries to find out what happened on the date. When Stradlater sarcastically indicates that what transpired is privileged information, Holden...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Ely: Ackley’s roommate

Frederick Woodruff: a student, who lives in the dorm, to whom Holden sells his typewriter

After the fight with Stradlater, Holden goes to Ackley’s room looking for comfort, but finds none. Ackley’s only concern is to learn the reasons for the fight. When Holden asks to sleep in Ely’s bed, Ackley is unwilling to give permission because Ely might come back that evening. The truth is that Ely goes home every weekend and will not return until Sunday evening. Holden leaves Ackley’s room and decides on the spur of the moment to leave Pencey Prep immediately, rather than wait until Wednesday. He does not want to...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mrs. Morrow: mother of Ernest Morrow, a classmate; the lady whom Holden met on the train

Ernest Morrow: a classmate of Holden’s, son of the lady whom he met on the train

Rudolf Schmidt: the name of the janitor at Holden’s dorm and the alias Holden used with Mrs. Morrow on the train

Harry Fencer: the president of Holden’s class at Pencey Prep

When Holden boards a train for New York, he meets the mother of one of his classmates at Pencey Prep, Mrs. Morrow. Because he finds Mrs. Morrow an attractive person, Holden makes up a story about her son, Ernest. Even though Ernest is not very likable, he tells her that...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Phoebe: Holden’s younger sister

Sally Hayes: a close friend of Holden’s

Mrs. Hayes: Sally’s mother

Carl Luce: an acquaintance of Holden’s from the Whooton School

Faith Cavendish: a former stripper, who would not meet Holden for a drink

Eddie (Edmund) Birdsell: a student at Princeton who gave Faith Cavendish’s name and telephone number to Holden

Anne Louise Sherman: a girl whom Holden once dated

When the train arrives at Penn Station, Holden goes into a phone booth and considers calling his brother, his sister, Jane Gallagher’s mother, Sally Hayes, and Carl Luce. In the...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Bernice: one of the girls whom Holden met in the Lavender Room; blonde and a good dancer

Marty: one of the girls whom Holden met in the Lavender Room; a poor dancer

Laverne: one of the girls whom Holden met in the Lavender Room

Holden spends a considerable amount of time talking to the reader about Phoebe, but dismisses the idea of calling her on the telephone. Instead, he goes downstairs to the Lavender Room, a lounge in the hotel. He is seated next to a table of three girls from Seattle, who are visiting New York City. He dances with them and tries to strike up a conversation, but they show little interest in him. They are...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mrs. Caulfield: Holden’s mother

Mrs. Cudahy: Jane’s mother

Mr. Cudahy: Jane’s stepfather

Having paid the check, Holden leaves the Lavender Room and begins thinking about Jane Gallagher. He sits down in a chair in the lobby of the hotel and gets upset again, thinking about what might have happened between Jane Gallagher and Stradlater. He is relatively certain that nothing happened, but he still gets disturbed when he thinks about it. He begins to reminisce about how he met Jane. They were neighbors at their summer homes in Maine the summer before last. He spent a good deal of time with Jane that summer, playing tennis and...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Horwitz: the cabdriver who takes Holden to Ernie’s

Ernie: the owner of nightclub in Greenwich Village and featured piano player there

Lillian Simmons: a former girlfriend of D.B.’s, whom Holden meets in Ernie’s

Holden takes a cab to Ernie’s, a night club in Greenwich Village. The cab driver, Horwitz, is impatient with Holden, and always sounds angry when he is talking. Holden asks him where the ducks go in the winter. Horwitz answers in an irascible manner that he does not know, but then begins talking about the fish in the lake. Although Holden is upset by his “touchy” manner, and decides that it is no pleasure...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Raymond Goldfarb: the boy with whom Holden got drunk on scotch in the chapel at the Whooton School

Maurice: the elevator operator who procured the prostitute for Holden

Sunny: the prostitute procured by Maurice

Holden walks back to the hotel from Ernie’s. On the way, he fantasizes about the student at Pencey Prep who stole his gloves. Holden admits that he would not have the courage to confront the thief without appearing weak. His lack of courage depresses him, and he decides to stop in a bar for a drink. For some unknown reason, he changes his mind and goes straight back to the hotel. The elevator operator at...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Bobby Fallon: a neighbor and friend of Holden in Maine several years ago

Arthur Childs: a student at the Whooton School with whom Holden discusses religious issues

After Sunny leaves his room, Holden feels miserable and depressed. He begins reminiscing about Allie. When he finishes the story, he goes to bed. Holden feels like praying, but does not. He says that he cannot always pray when he feels like it. Instead, he reflects on discussions he has had with Arthur Childs about Jesus and the disciples. He again tries to pray but is obsessed by thoughts of Sunny calling him a crumb-bum. Suddenly there is a knock at the door. When he opens the...

(The entire section is 738 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
The Nuns: two nuns whom Holden meets in Grand Central Station

Dick Slagle: Holden’s roommate at Elkton Hills School

Louis Shaney: a Catholic boy at Whooton School whom Holden met in the infirmary

Holden awakens at about 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. He considers having breakfast sent up to his room, but he is afraid that Maurice may be the one to bring it. Instead, he thinks about calling Jane Gallagher, decides against it, and then calls Sally Hayes. He arranges to meet Sally for an afternoon show. Concerned about his luggage, he decides to rent a locker at Grand Central Station. Once there, he has breakfast at the counter in the...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Miss Aigletinger: a former teacher of Holden’s who frequently took her class to the Museum of Natural History

Gertrude Levine: Holden’s partner when the class went to the Museum of Natural History

When Holden finishes breakfast, he goes for a long walk. He thinks about the nuns collecting money for the poor. It makes him sad that the nuns never go anywhere nice for lunch. He walks toward Broadway, looking for a record store where he can buy Little Shirley Beans, a hard-to-find recording he wants to give to Phoebe. He notices a poor family, on their way home from church, and is intrigued by the six-year-old boy, who is singing,...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Harris Macklin: a roommate of Holden’s for a couple of months at Elkton Hills School

George something: an acquaintance of Sally Hayes whom she saw at the play

Holden sits in the lobby at the Biltmore Hotel and does some girl-watching while he waits for Sally Hayes to arrive. He muses about what will become of these girls. On the one hand, he considers that many will marry boring guys who are not intelligent. Then he remembers an old roommate of his, Harris Macklin, who was intelligent and boring too. Holden concludes that it may not be so bad if the girls marry boring guys, just so long as they are nice. Finally, he sees Sally coming up...

(The entire section is 570 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Al Pike: Jane Gallagher’s date at a Fourth of July dance

Bob Robinson: a friend of Holden’s who had an inferiority complex

Holden leaves the skating rink and goes to a drugstore to get something to eat. He considers calling Jane Gallagher to ask her to go dancing. Thinking of Jane reminds him of a story about Jane and her date, Al Pike, at a Fourth of July dance. Not surprisingly, Holden was critical of Al in front of Jane, labeling him as a show-off. Jane excused Al’s behavior by saying he was not a show-off, but had an inferiority complex. In an effort to explain to the reader the difference between someone with an inferiority...

(The entire section is 679 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis

Holden arrives at the Wicker Bar before Luce. While he is waiting, he describes the Wicker Bar as a sophisticated place which is frequented by phonies and homosexuals. Holden regards the bartender as a snob. Luce finally arrives and makes it clear that he cannot stay for very long. The conversation goes from bad to worse. Holden is able to irritate Luce with every statement he makes and every question he asks. Although Holden recognizes that many of his questions are too personal, he continues asking them and justifies his behavior to himself by arguing that Luce, as student advisor, used to ask questions that were too personal. Finally, Luce repeats the advice which he gave Holden the last time they...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis

Luce escapes from the irascible Holden. Holden remains at the bar, watches the entertainment, and gets drunk. Because he is drunk and under age, he is careful not to draw attention to himself. He once again begins to fantasize about having a bullet in his stomach. Holden decides to call Jane Gallagher and leaves the bar. But as one might expect, he changes his mind because he is not “in the mood.” Instead, he calls Sally Hayes and tells her that he will come to her house on Christmas Eve and help decorate the tree. Afterwards, though, he regrets having made the call. In an effort to become sober, he goes into a restroom and dunks his head in a sink of cold water. Still feeling depressed and...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis

Holden enters the family apartment, unrecognized, because there is a substitute elevator boy, whom he deceives. He sneaks into the apartment and finds Phoebe, not in her own room, but asleep in D.B.’s room. Holden says he feels good being home. He wakes up Phoebe, and both are obviously happy to see each other. Phoebe immediately asks him if he received her letter, in which she invited him to attend her play. He assures her that he is, indeed, coming to her play. They talk about where their parents have gone for the evening, the movie Phoebe saw that afternoon, the broken record, whether D.B. is coming home for Christmas, and that she had hurt her arm. But when Phoebe gets Holden to admit that he...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis

New Character
James Castle: the boy who committed suicide at Elkton Hills School

After leaving Phoebe to get cigarettes in the living room, Holden returns to the bedroom. Phoebe’s response to Holden’s expulsion is “Daddy’ll kill you.” Holden says that his dad will either send him to a military school, or that nothing will happen because Holden will be on a ranch in Colorado. Phoebe continues to press Holden as to why he was expelled. He resents the questioning and says that he is tired of everyone asking him that question. Holden, however, does tell Phoebe how bad it was at Pencey. He mentions all the phonies and mean guys there. Holden sums up his feelings...

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 23 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Mr. Antolini: Holden’s former English teacher at Elkton Hills

It is after 1:00 a.m. when Holden calls Mr. Antolini, who graciously invites him to come over to his apartment right away. Holden returns to the bedroom and dances with Phoebe to four songs on the radio. After they finish, Phoebe hears the front door open. Their parents have returned. Holden quickly hides in the closet. Mrs. Caulfield comes into the bedroom and announces that she saw the light on. Phoebe says that she had trouble sleeping. Her mother then mentions that she smells cigarette smoke. Phoebe covers for Holden by saying that she just took one puff. When her mother leaves the...

(The entire section is 434 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Richard Kinsella: a classmate of Holden’s who digressed a great deal in Oral Expression class when giving speeches

Mr. Vinson: teacher of Oral Expression at Pencey Prep

Holden takes a cab to Mr. Antolini’s apartment. It was clear to Holden that Mr. Antolini had been drinking quite a lot that evening, since he and his wife had had a party that evening. Mr. Antolini questioned Holden about his difficulties at Pencey and more specifically how Holden did in his English class. This led to a discussion of Richard Kinsella, a student at Pencey, who was in the same Oral Expression class as Holden. Holden was particularly annoyed with Mr....

(The entire section is 527 words.)

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 25 and 26 Summary and Analysis

Holden takes the subway to Grand Central Station and sleeps there on a bench until 9:00 a.m. He begins to have second thoughts about whether Mr. Antolini is a homosexual. To distract himself from these thoughts, Holden reads some magazine articles about hormones and cancer. In no time at all, Holden begins wondering whether he has hormone problems and whether he has cancer. He leaves Grand Central Station and looks for a place to have breakfast. He finds a place, but has only coffee because he is still too upset about Mr. Antolini to eat. Holden decides again that he will go out west. He leaves a note for Phoebe at her school, instructing her to meet him at the museum during her lunch period so he can...

(The entire section is 890 words.)