The Catcher in the Rye Characters

The main characters in The Catcher in the Rye include Holden Caulfield, Phoebe Caulfield, Mr. Antolini, Jane Gallagher, and Allie Caulfield. 

  • Holden Caulfield is the narrator who describes spending a few days in New York.
  • Phoebe Caulfield is Holden's younger sister. She loves Holden and is supportive of him.
  • Mr. Antolini is Holden's former English teacher who invites Holden to stay with him when Holden visits New York.
  • Jane Gallagher is Holden's good friend. He has many fond memories of their time together. He often tries to call her but fails.
  • Allie Caulfield is Holden’s deceased younger brother. Holden often imagines having conversations with him.

Characters

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Last Updated on June 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 284

Holden Caulfield

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is narrated by Holden Caulfield, the jaded, brash, and irreverent protagonist. Holden is a 17 year old who has been admitted into a psychiatric hospital in California. While there, he details the events following his expulsion from Pencey Prep School. Holden is afraid of returning to his parents early. He decides to spend the last three days until his school break wandering New York before returning to his parents. During his time in New York City, he seeks companionship and understanding, but is often unsuccessful. (Read extended character analysis of Holden Caulfield.)

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Phoebe Caulfield

Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s younger sister. Phoebe is Holden's favorite person and the only one he can truly communicate with. In contrast to his jaded outlook, Phoebe's perspective is amusing and refreshing, and she is also emotional and affectionate. (Read extended character analysis of Phoebe Caulfield.)

Mr. Antolini

Mr. Antolini is Holden’s English teacher from his previous school, Elkton Hills. Mr. Antolini is young, intelligent, and suave, with a nice home in New York City. He has a propensity for smoking and drinking. Holden calls him up in the middle of the night to ask for help. Mr. Antolini readily invites Holden to his home to stay the night on his couch. After Holden arrives, Mr. Antolini’s wife serves Holden coffee before going to bed, and Mr. Antolini stays up with Holden to talk with him. (Read extended character analysis of Mr. Antolini.)

Minor Characters

Allie Caulfield | Carl Luce | D.B. Caulfield | Ernest Morrow | Faith Cavendish | Horwitz | James Castle | Jane Gallagher | Lillian Simmons | Maurice | Mr. Spencer | Mrs. Morrow | Ossenburger | Robert Ackley | Sally Hayes | Sunny | Three Women from Seattle | Two Nuns | Ward Stradlater

Allie

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 143

Allie Caulfield was Holden’s younger brother. Allie died of leukemia on July 18th, 1946. Holden describes Allie as very intelligent and incredibly kind and notes Allie’s bright red hair as a defining physical characteristic. Allie used to play baseball, and he wrote poems in green ink on his baseball mitt to read while no one was at bat.

Allie’s death negatively affects Holden. After Allie died, Holden smashed all the windows in his parent’s garage, breaking his hand in the process. When Holden is feeling particularly depressed, he tends to talk to Allie out loud. Holden expresses regret over not having invited Allie to join him and a friend on an outing when Allie was still alive. Holden sometimes imagines telling Allie to grab his bike and come along on that outing as a futile attempt to change the past.

Carl Luce

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 161

Carl Luce was Holden’s older classmate at Whooton. He is three years older than Holden and is considered very intelligent. Holden calls him up out of boredom and loneliness, hoping to have dinner and some “intellectual conversation.” Carl Luce tells Holden he can only meet him at ten o’clock at night at the Wicker Bar.

When Carl Luce shows up, Holden is intent on discussing sex with him, as Holden remembers how Carl would boast to the boys in the dorm about his sex life. Carl is reluctant to have the conversation and repeatedly tells Holden to be more quiet. Holden is unable to read Carl and can’t have a decent conversation with him, because he only wants to discuss topics that Carl deems immature. Carl hurriedly leaves after two drinks and a dissatisfying conversation. Holden’s interaction with Carl is an example of Holden’s inability to interpret those around him, as well as his social insensitivity.

D.B. Caulfield

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 60

D. B. Caulfield is Holden’s older brother. He lives in Hollywood and works as a successful writer. Holden believes that D.B. has sold out, or “prostituted” himself, by selling his work. This interpretation situates D.B. as part of the adult world that Holden contempts. Holden mentions that D.B. visits him at the psychiatric hospital every weekend.

Ernest Morrow

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 50

Ernest Morrow is described as the “biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey.” Holden dislikes him, though he is never actually introduced. When he meets Ernest's mother, Holden fabricates stories about Ernest to make her proud, such as that classmates are trying to convince Ernest to run for class president.

Faith Cavendish

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 74

Faith Cavendish is described as not “exactly a whore or anything but [someone who] didn’t mind doing it once in a while.” Faith escorted a student from Princeton to a party, and the student, Eddie Birdsell, gave Holden her number. Faith, although kind to Holden after learning how he acquired her number, refuses to meet with him in the middle of the night. She tells him to enjoy his time in New York.

Horwitz

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 72

Horwitz is the cab driver who takes Holden from his hotel to Ernie’s nightclub. Holden tries to ask him about the birds and where they go in the winter, but he is taken aback by the cab driver’s excitable nature. Horwitz becomes impassioned while talking to Holden, and, even though Holden is worried the man will crash the cab, he asks him to join him for drinks, which Horwitz refuses.

James Castle

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 54

Holden’s classmate at Elkton Hills, James killed himself by jumping out of a window. Holden recalls hearing how James hit the ground and how Mr. Antolini was the only person willing to pick James up and take him to the infirmary. James was also wearing Holden’s turtleneck sweater when he killed himself.

Jane Gallagher

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 188

Jane Gallagher was Holden’s next-door neighbor the summer before he attended Pencey Prep. Jane is a ballet dancer who had a rough childhood. She leaves a strong impression on Holden, and he idealizes her and her quirks, such as her tendency to keep all her kings in the back row while playing checkers. The first time Holden is reminded of Jane is when his roommate, Stradlater, takes her on a date. Holden worries throughout most of the novel that Stradlater took advantage of Jane during the date, although this is never proven outright.

While Holden is meandering through New York City, he often thinks of Jane. They had become very close over the previous summer. Holden told Jane about Allie, and he witnessed Jane’s discomfort and unhappiness with her stepfather. Although they both shared these intimate experiences, Holden cannot bring himself to contact Jane, even though she would likely give him the most genuine human contact. Jane is another ideal figure whom Holden fails to contact during his days in New York, though he frequently reflects on her and the times they shared over the summer.

Lillian Simmons

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 29

Lillian Simmons is D.B. Caulfield’s ex-girlfriend. Holden runs into her at Ernie’s nightclub. Her affected manner bothers him so much that he leaves the club early.

Maurice

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 56

Maurice is a hotel elevator operator. He is also a pimp who convinces Holden to accept a prostitute. When Holden doesn’t pay the prostitute, Sunny, the amount she asks for, Maurice goes to Holden’s room and takes Holden’s money. After Holden calls him a “moron,” Maurice punches Holden in the gut and leaves.

Mr. Spencer

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 99

Mr. Spencer is a geriatric history teacher from Pencey Prep. He establishes a relationship with Holden and invites him over to his home before Holden leaves school. When Holden visits, Mr. Spencer’s attempts to help Holden are unsuccessful, as his help amounts to condescendingly pointing out Holden’s lack of effort and knowledge in history. He reads Holden’s bad essay out loud and tries to tell Holden about the importance of paying attention to the future. Although Mr. Spencer is sarcastic and condescending in his efforts, he does seem to genuinely care for and worry about Holden.

Mrs. Morrow

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 95

Holden meets Ernest Morrow’s mother on the train on his way to New York City and holds a shallow conversation with her. He tells her several lies about her how wonderful and great her son is even though he thinks Ernest is a "bastard." She is an example of the type of naive person Holden takes advantage of. In lying to her, Holden is being a "phony." However, Holden states that he enjoys seeing Mrs. Morrow's reaction to his praise of her son. It's possible that this explains his motivation for lying to her.

Ossenburger

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 52

Ossenburger is an alumnus and wealthy mortician who contributes financial gifts to Pencey Prep. Holden recalls a speech Ossenburger gave to the students, in which he claims they need a personal relationship with Jesus. Holden considers him a phony, likely because he views Ossenburger as a hypocrite who profits from the dead.

Robert Ackley

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 135

Robert Ackley, referred to as “Ackley,” is an 18-year-old senior at Pencey Prep. He lives in the room adjacent to Holden’s. Holden and most of the boys at Pencey dislike him, although Holden holds a degree of pity for him, knowing that Ackley is often ostracized due to his nature. Ackley is ill-mannered and has physical attributes such as bad teeth and acne that Holden finds disturbing. Ackley dislikes Holden’s roommate, Ward Stradlater, and often calls him a “sonuvabitch.”

Holden tends to tolerate Ackley, even inviting him along on nights out to the theater with his other friends. Holden goes to Ackley after he argues with Stradlater, and in return Ackley tolerates Holden’s presence in his space. Ackley is passionate about his Catholic faith and immediately confronts Holden when he insults it.

Sally Hayes

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Last Updated on November 14, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 224

Sally Hayes is Holden’s old friend. Holden invites her out on a date to see a play, although he dislikes them. Sally is a beautiful and wealthy girl, and Holden admires her for her beauty. However, Sally cannot understand Holden or his way of seeing the world. Unlike Holden, who believes the world is corrupted, Sally interacts happily with her surroundings. Holden spontaneously asks Sally to go to Vermont or Massachusetts with him. The idea is preposterous to Sally, who thinks they are too young and will likely starve. She tells Holden they should wait until they’re older, and she can’t seem to understand why that upsets him. To Holden, waiting until they are both adults would not be as freeing and exciting. To Sally, the idea is dangerous and nonsensical.

Sally is also representative of societal norms, exemplified by her inviting Holden to trim a Christmas tree with her family. Holden refuses at first, not seeing any worth in the activity, but later he calls her and tells her he’ll go. Sally confuses Holden. He can’t seem to decide if he hates her or really loves her, and for brief moments, he truly feels he could marry her or run away with her. Sally, however, will never understand Holden. She is entirely of the world Holden considers “phony.”

Sunny

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 112

Sunny is the prostitute whom the hotel elevator operator, Maurice, sends to Holden. Unable to refuse Maurice’s offer to set him up with a prostitute, Holden accepts, even though he does not believe in having sex outside of a relationship. Sunny comes to Holden’s hotel room, and Holden immediately feels uncomfortable. Sunny is nervous, crude, and doesn’t want to have a conversation with Holden when he asks to talk. She asks for more money than Holden had been told it would cost, and Holden refuses to pay her. Sunny leaves, upset with Holden for not giving her what she demanded and for waking her up so late at night.

Three Women from Seattle

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 62

Holden meets the three women—Bernice, Marty, and Lauren—from Seattle at the hotel’s lounge, the Lavender Room. To Holden, they represent shallowness and conformity. Holden is disgusted by them, though he admits that two of them are good dancers. To Holden, the three women typify the average adult who lacks depth and who is unable to carry an intellectual conversation.

Two Nuns

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 39

The two nuns sit next to Holden at a breakfast cafe. To Holden, the nuns represent those who are ideal, pure, and uncorrupted by the world. Holden regrets not donating more money to them before they left the cafe.

Ward Stradlater

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Last Updated on November 13, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 168

Ward Stradlater is Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep. Holden describes his personality as a “phony kind of friendly.” Stradlater has a larger build than Holden does, although they are similar in height. Holden calls Stradlater a “secret slob,” meaning that he takes care of his outward appearance but the small things, like his razor, are unclean; only those who really know him can see that. Stradlater is also narcissistic, expecting those around him to care about his needs over their own.

Stradlater is manipulative, especially towards girls. Calling it “giving them the time,” Holden describes watching a double date in which Stradlater “smooth talk[s]” a girl and pushes her into doing something she doesn’t want to do with him. Holden paints Stradlater as the type of person who affects sincerity to achieve his own goals. Stradlater resorts to violence when Holden confronts him about Jane. Although Holden instigates the attack, Stradlater shows no remorse for his actions and punches Holden, giving him a bloody nose.

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Holden Caulfield