"The Catcher in the Rye" is set around the 1950s and is narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield. Holden is not specific about his location while he's telling the story, but he makes it clear that he is undergoing treatment in a mental hospital or sanitarium. The events he narrates take place in the few days between the end of the fall school term and Christmas, the few days that lead to an ending break down.
Holden's story begins at the Pencey prep school. Pencey is Holden's fourth school; he has already failed out of three others. At Pencey, he has failed practically all of his classes due to lack of motivation, and has received notice that he is being expelled, but he is not scheduled to return home to Manhattan until Wednesday. Holden decides that he's had enough of Pencey and will go to Manhattan three days early, stay in a hotel, and not tell his parents that he is back.
Holden then takes the train to New York, and while he is in a cab a question comes up that only seems significant at the end: where do the ducks in Central Park go when the lake freezes over?
Holden has the cab take him to the Edmont Hotel, where he checks himself in.
After smoking a couple of cigarettes, Holden then decides to call Faith Cavendish, a woman he has never met but whose number he got from an acquaintance at Princeton. Holden thinks he remembers hearing that she used to be a stripper, and thinks that he could then have a good time with her. He calls her, and though she is at first annoyed to be called at such a late hour by somebody who is a complete stranger, she eventually...