"If you really want to know the truth, I felt sorry for the bastard."(54) This is just one of the colorful lines that is often repeated in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye. When the book was first released, it was considered highly controversial for its time. Many people tried to ban the reading of the book in schools. Although The Catcher In The Rye has very colorful dialogue, and deals with crude topics, it still sells over 200,000 copies annually. This is why.
Holden Caulfield is the main character in the story. The entire story is a reflection by Holden while he is staying in a mental hospital. His story begins at a private school, called Pencey. Holden has been recently kicked out of the school for lack of effort and for poor grades. Holden dislikes everybody at the school, mainly because they are ignorant and conceded.
Christmas break is coming up and Holden has to wait until then to permanently leave the school. Then one night, Holden gets into a fight with his roommate. He gets so upset that he can't stand staying there anymore. In the middle of the night, Holden packs all of his belongings and heads for his hometown, New York.
The rest of the story takes place in the city, where the reader starts to see Holden's bad habits. Holden needs a place to stay because he can't go home, yet. The reason for this is because his parents have not yet found out about their son's expulsion. So Holden decides to stay in a low-class hotel. While in the hotel, Holden decides to go down to the bar. He meets three older women and "chews the fat" with them for a while. They soon leave and Holden is now very lonely. On his way back up to his room, Holden meets a pimp and then buys a prostitute. Once the prostitute is in his room, Holden gets an odd feeling. The more he looks at the prostitute, the more depressed he becomes. So he tells her to leave. Soon, there is a knock on his door. It is the pimp and the prostitute. She said that Holden did not pay her enough money. Holden refuses to pay the money that the prostitute says he owes her, so the pimp roughs up Holden. It is now evident that Holden is suffering extreme depression. He picks himself off the floor and goes to a local bar. At the bar he gets really drunk. While he is drunk, he starts thinking about the world and about his own life. These are the times where most of Holden's thoughts and ideas are expressed. Holden goes back to his room and passes out.
The next morning he calls an old girlfriend. He meets her for the day and they go to a show. They spend most of the day together, but then are separated because Holden gets into a huge argument with her. Holden looks for more company, but cannot find any. Once again he goes to a bar. He gets really hammered and now he starts thinking of home. His little sister comes to mind, and he can't stop thinking of her. He badly wants to see her, but it is too soon to come home. Finally, he decides to go to his house and meet with her. They have a long conversation and he explains to her how he has been kicked out of school again. His parents, who were at an opera, come home. Holden has to sneak out of the house. He is now broke and has no place to stay. He calls up one of his old English teachers and asks him if he can stay at his apartment. The teacher says yes, and Holden goes over to his house. That night, while sleeping, Holden feels someone touching him. His teacher was trying to put a move on him. Holden immediately runs out of the house, and goes to the train station, where he spends the entire night. In the morning he writes his sister a letter telling her to meet him during her lunch hour at the museum. When she arrives, Holden is surprised to see that she has a suitcase with her. She says that she wants to run away with him. She gets all upset because he refuses to let her go with. They then go to the zoo, where his sister rides the carousel. As he sits on a bench watching her, he decides he will not run away. He goes home.
Holden now reveals at the end of the story that he told the story from a mental institution. He got very sick from depression when he got home and had to be admitted. This single aspect explains the whole story by giving reason to his thinking and also to his actions. This abrupt ending gives this strange story a perfect ending.