The Catcher in the Rye Main Character Holden Caulfield is the main character in 'The Catcher in the Rye'. Like most people, Holden's mind wanders, and that's what I found the most interesting about him. He's sixteen years old, and he just got kicked out of another boarding school: Pencey Prep. He's tall, and skinny and he's not broad-shouldered. He's got a crewcut. His dad's a corporate lawyer and he is pretty rich. Holden really is a nice guy, but he's rally insecure and keeps proving himself to the reader that he doesn't have many principles by drinking and smoking pretty heavy. In this book he smokes three packs of cigarettes in two days and has a lot of alcoholic drinks. He even goes on proving himself to the reader. I even had sort of a stomach-ache, if you want to know the truth." He adds "...if you want to know the truth" very often after he has added something to what he'd said before.
He really is afraid people will think he's a softy or some sort of rich sissy. If he says something he thinks is dumb or not tough enough he jokes about it.
'When I'm somewhere I generally just eat a Swiss cheese and a malted milk. It isn't much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H.V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.' He exaggerates big time and he swears a lot. Especially when he talks to his roommates. Goddam this and damn that. But he can't stand the four-letter word.
'I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written 'F*** you on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally-what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days.' He hates 'phonies', people who have an attitude. Holden really liked his younger brother Allie, who died. When Allie died, Holden spent all day in the garage and he broke all the windows. Now he can't make fist with his right hand because of that.
Minor Characters Ward Stradlater Stradlater is Holden's roommate at Pencey is real good whistler, although his whistle is never in tune it has a great range. He's a senior, 18 years old, and as tall as Holden. But Stradlater is bigger and stronger, while Holden is very tall and thin. Stradlater makes a pretty big deal out of dressing up and that kind of stuff.
"The reason why he fixed himself up to look good was because he was madly in love with himself. He thought he was the handsomest guy in the Western Hemisphere." Holden says, "Stradlater's good at snowing his dates and getting them to have sex with him even if they don't want to. He also is a guy who your parents would notice in a Year Book." Robert Ackley Everybody calls him Ackley. Nobody ever calls him by his first name Bob or even Ack, Holden thinks that even his wife will call him Ackley. Ackley is really tall, six four. But that isn't important. He's messy, he looks messy and always leaves everything messed up. He's got lousy teeth and pimples over his face. He's a real jerk; he'd come into your room as if that was by mistake and he'd pick something up and put it down somewhere else. It's supposed to piss you off and it does. Before he'd come in he'd check if Stradlater was in the room as well. He hated Stradlater and wouldn't come in if he was there. If Stradlater wasn't, Ackley would lie down on your bed and scratch opens his pimples and wipe the pus all over your pillow.
Jane Gallagher Holden met Jane during vacation. Jane's Mother's Doberman would come into the garden off the Caulfields and relieve himself. Mrs. Caulfield phoned Jane's mom and made big stink out of it. That was a bad start but it turned out all right. Jane's parents are divorced and her mom got married again.
"She was a funny girl, old Jane. I wouldn't exactly describe her as strictly beautiful. She knocked me out, though." Said Holden.
Jane and Holden get along well and he describes her as a girl with whom you can hold hands without having to worry about your hands being sweaty. She'll just sit still and not move her hand all the time, like other girls do.
D.B. Caulfield D.B. is Holden's older brother, who lives in Hollywood, California and is a writer and a witty intellectual, according to Holden. He got a book containing short stories published. He gets Holden to read books like A Farewell to Arms, but Holden doesn't like all of them. D.B. can get pretty sore about that.
Phoebe Caulfield Phoebe is Holden's ten-year-old sister. She more or less adores her brothers. It isn't real adoration, but she likes horsing around and being around them. D.B. isn't home, so she uses his room because it's much bigger then her own. She makes her homework at his huge desk and sleeps in his gigantic bed that's about ten miles wide and ten miles long. She's nice dancer too and Holden can talk to her as long as he wants to and she'll listen and understand him. Or at least make him believe she does.
"...she writes books all the time. Only, she doesn't finish them. They're all about some kid named Hazel Weatherfield-only Phoebe spells it Hazle . Old Hazel Weatherfield is a girl detective. She's supposed to be an orphan, but her old man keeps showing up. Her old man's always a tall attractive gentleman about 20 years of age. That kills me. Old Phoebe. I swear to God you'd like her." Setting Pencey Pencey is the school Holden attends until the beginning of the story, when he has just got kicked out. The story starts there. The Christmas vacation is about to start for all the students. It's pretty a traditional school, its advertisements in the papers say: "Since 1888 we have been molding young boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men." New York City, New York, USA. Christmas 1949.
The book doesn't make you feel New York City was as busy then as it is nowadays. In the beginning it does, but, when reaching the end of the book, it seems a quiet city of 100,000 in stead of the metropolis it actually is.
Note: I'm almost sure about the year 1949, although it could be 1948. Allie, who is Holden's younger brother, died July 18, 1946 of leukemia. Holden was thirteen then, in the book he's sixteen.
I think the swearing tells you a lot about when the book was written. Holden is pretty disturbed by 'f*** you'. That really says a lot because he swears continuously.
The Story The story starts when Holden, from whose point of view the story is told, spends his last evening at Pencey. He just got back from NYC, where he was with the school's fencing team, and lost all the gear. Stradlater is dating Jane and it upsets Holden pretty much, through the book Holden keeps talking about Jane and telling he thought about her. He leaves Pencey that Saturday around eleven o'clock at night and takes a train to New York City. There he takes a cab and gives his home address to the cab driver. When he notices what he did, he gives a new address. The Edmonton Hotel. It's full of pimps and prostitutes. He checks in and phones a prostitute, whose number he got from a guy from Princeton. He can't get her to come over and he can't get any liquor either, so he takes a cab to Ernie's . D.B. used to take him there and anybody can get booze in that place. Back in the hotel, Maurice, a pimp, fixes him up with a five-dollar whore. And when she's up in his room he just pays her and sends her back.
Sexy was about the last thing I was feeling. I felt much more depressed than sexy.
Maurice comes out to be an even bigger hustler than you would've expected. He comes back for another five dollars, when he told Holden before the girls cost five a 'throw'.
'Old Maurice unbuttoned his whole uniform coat. All he had underneath was a phony shirt collar, but no shirt or anything. He had a big fat hairy stomach.' Holden doesn't want to pay so Sunny, the whore, takes five while Maurice throws a punch or two at him.
The morning after he phones Sally and they go see a show later, around two o'clock. Sally's a phony because she says 'that's grand' when she means 'that's terrific'. They hang around the whole afternoon, ice-skating and seeing the show, and then it starts going wrong. Holden just tells her she's a 'royal pain in the ass' and she really 'hits the ceiling'. She goes home at once. After drinking all night, first with Carl Luce, a friend from Ekton Hills and after that alone, he goes home to talk to Phoebe. Their parents, who are out to a party, come in suddenly and he hides in the closet. Their mom notices the smoke from Holden's cigarette, but Phoebe's smart enough to take the blame, saying she just took one puff. Then he sneaks out and goes to a teacher, who told him to come over if he needed to. Mr. and Mrs. Antolini let him stay on the couch. Mrs. Antolini... was lousy with dough.
Holden decides to leave and go west. He leaves Phoebe a note, to say she has to meet him in the park, she's late and drags a suitcase with her. She wants to go with him. The argument they have causes him to let go of the idea and they make up. Holden will go home with Phoebe.
Title The background of the title is a bit funny. It's explained when he's talking to Phoebe in the middle of his second night back in New York. Phoebe asks what he wants to be when he grows up. And he answers, after putting down some professions, and asking Phoebe if she knows a song called 'If a body catch a body comin' through the rye', which is actually a poem called 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'.
Holden says "I thought it was 'If a body catch a body', I said. Anyway, I keep picturing 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 know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy." Use of Language The use of language in the book can be confusing sometimes. Like when Holden talks about Phoebe and her writing. Then he says: "She kills me." Here it means "that's really funny about her" or "that's really cool" to put in my own words. But when someone does or says something that's really annoying it also kills him, but in a negative way. Holden also ends sentences saying ".... and all." The book is written in the English that the way it's spoken. "Sonuvabitch," "No kidding," "Wuddayacallit" and "C'mon" are words, that are used all the time.
Opinion I really loved the book. It's written like a real person would think. At the same time though, Holden is always depressed, and everything he thinks about leads to how depressing that really is.
My favourite character is Holden because he acts like a real person would. And he's really emotional too. When his brother died, he broke all the windows in his garage, and when he finds out what Stradlater did with Jane, he gets really mad and tries to beat him up, although that doesn't go too well.