In The novel, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, the main character is Holden Caulfield. He is a loner who does not fit into society. The novel is written in first person perspective; from Holden, who describes a few days of his life to us, and lots of memories. Holden has two brothers and a sister. His younger brother Allie, who Holden cared for very much, died of leukemia at an unexpected time. His older brother, D.B. has left to pursue a writing career in Hollywood. The two people that Holden cared about the most have been separated from him-one by career, and the other by death. He still has his younger sister Phoebe; she is the only person that Holden truly cares about now. She is the one that he talks about often because he believes that she is the only person who understands him because she is still young.
To Holden adults are all phonies, (not fake people who are insincere, but people who to him are too typical, and play the role that society wants them to play.) Holden has been sent away to boarding school by his parents, and he has managed to be kicked out of four schools because he does not do the work. He does not have any real friends, and has no human connections to anyone. Although he seeks affection from people, he manages to isolate and embarrass himself every time. After being expelled form his last school Holden decides to go to New York City alone. On this trip he faces on rejection after another, not only from the people around him, but from himself also.
The first human interaction that Holden has is with a lady, Mrs. Morrow, who he meets on the train station to New York. He finds out that she is a mother of a boy who goes to the school that he just got expelled from. He makes up fake stories about the boy, and tells Mrs. Morrow that his name is Rudolf Schmidt, though that is the name of the schools janitor. When he calls himself Rudolf Schmidt it is his way of escaping from his own identity. He chooses a name of a janitor because he does not think highly of himself; he is very upset and cannot think of himself as being better than a janitor.
Once Holden is in NYC he is desperate to find some sort of connection with anyone. He tries to talk to the taxi cab driver, but just gets rejected. He tries to think of people that he can call, but he doesn't succeed in calling anyone. He just ends up going to cheap bars where all the people there are phonies. He has a cynical point of view of everything around him. The table where he gets seated is a bad one; he cannot get alcohol in some places because he has no ID. Holden's mind sinks into depression as he listens to the people around him. He desperately wants and needs human contact, but he cannot view the people at the bar as human. Even when Holden sees a girl, Lillian, that he knows he is disgusted by her, and doesn't want to be with her. He sees her as a person from the in-crowd which makes him jealous because knows he can never be part of that crowd. Holden goes into the bar because he wants to be around people, so he wont be lonely, but his depressed state of mind will not let him connect to anyone. Everything to him is negative.
Holden decides to get a prostitute. He thinks he can handle her, but once he gets her he regrets it. He tries to act suave, and again makes up a fake name of Jim Steele, but that does not help him at all. When he tries talking to the prostitute she rejects him and demands $10, and not the $5 that Holden gave her for her service. After Holden refuses, the prostitute gets her pimp who in the end punches Holden in the stomach while the prostitute gets the extra $5. This leaves Holden to imagine himself being strong and getting revenge on the pimp, but after thinking about his heroic thoughts Holden says, "What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window. (J.D. Salinger, 104)." His thoughts about suicide are not strong enough for him to actually do it, but they lead him into a downward spiral, and he feels like there is no escape from the pain and misery of his existence.
Later on Holden calls one of his old friends Sally to go on a date with. The date is going ok but while the two of them are having Coke's Holden suddenly has this grandiose idea to run away, and invites Sally with him. He gets excited about the idea of the two of them together, but is crushed when Sally refuses, and thinks that he is kidding. This upsets Holden so much that he attacks Sally and calls her names. That ends that date, and Holden's desire for interaction with people is again shattered. Holden thought that Sally understood him, but he was completely wrong, and that again brought him to a state of depression. He ends up going to a bar and getting drunk because he is lonely and has nowhere to go. Holden sinks further and further into his depression. He walks around New York City and when he sees a duck pond he throws his money into it, even though he doesn't have a lot of it left, this shows that he is no longer thinking about he future of his own survival. This shows his increasing troubled state of mind.
Holden decides that he wants to run away, but before he does he wants to see his sister, the only person he still cares about deeply because she is the one who he thinks understands him. To his surprise Phoebe gets upset when he comes home, not because he is home, but because she figures out the he has been expelled from school again. He thought that Phoebe would understand him and accept him for what he is, but Phoebe is disappointed in her brother. This drives Holden crazy because Phoebe is so sweet and innocent and realizes that people change, but he just doesn't want that to happen, he wants to save all the children from becoming phonies like adults. It makes him cry.
After he can't handle Phoebe anymore Holden calls his favorite teacher, Mr. Antolini, for some moral support. Holden thinks of Mr. Antolini as caring and compassionate and he knows he can trust Mr. Antolini because he is not a phony. When Holden goes to Mr. Anotlini's apartment he is disappointed in the visit. Holden gets a lecture from him about education, and when Mr. Antolini shows a sign of affection by touching his head Holden gets the wrong impression and leaves. He gets depressed again because he is on his own again.
Holden ends up going to Grand Central Station and sleeps there. He ends up reading a magazine and gets depressed from the articles. He then begins walking and all of a sudden he talks to his dead brother Allie. He pretends that Allie is helping him cross the street.
The characters that have a positive effect of Holden are Phoebe, and Mr. Antolini. Phoebe is the person that keeps Holden going. She is the one that he thinks about all the time and sets her as an example of what everyone should be like. He has this idea that she is innocent and not phony like everyone else. Phoebe realizes Holden's bitterness toward the rest of the world is really bitterness toward himself. She sees that he is deeply sad and insecure, and that he just needs love and support.
Mr. Antolini is the other positive character in Holden's life. He is an adult, and he manages to not be phony according to Holden. He treats Holden like a student, but he talks to him on the same level as him. Mr. Antolini tells Holden that education is not a path of conformity but a means for Holden to develop his unique voice and to find the ideas that are most appropriate to him. Even after Holden gets mad at Mr. Antolini for touching him he still forgives him in his mind because he realizes that Mr. Antolini just wants to help.
A character that has a negative effect on Holden is Stradlater, his roommate from his last school. Stradlater was popular, handsome and athletic, everything that Holden wasn't. He made Holden feel week and he degraded Holden when he ignored him in the bathroom, and made him write a paper for him on a Friday night while he himself went on a date with a girl that Holden knew. He also punched Holden in the nose after Holden wrote the paper for him, which made Holden feel more depressed and worthless because he wrote the paper about his brother Allie's glove, which meant a lot to him.
Holden is a person who is a depressed borderline schizophrenic. He is depressed because he just doesn't fit into society. He is an outsider, and no matter how hard he tries he just can't fit in. He constantly seeks human interactions, but fails miserably and thoughts of death and misery circle around his head all the time. From the beginning of "I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead (48)." Till the end, "The more I thought about it, though, the more depressed and screwed up about it I got (195)." Holden is starting to show signs of schizophrenia. The first time is when he has the crazy idea of running away with Sally. He has the idea out of the blue, and he makes the plan so detailed. He is shattered when Sally tells him no. Another time that he starts actins schizophrenic is when he is walking and starts to talk to his dead brother Allie: "Every time I'd get to the end of a black I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him, 'Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie don't let me disappear. Please, Allie.' And then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him (198)." He imagines his dead brother is helping him cross the street and is keeping him alive. That is a hallucination, which is not a normal thing to do.