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Catcher In The Rye Analysis Essay, Research Paper

Author: J.D. Salinger

Major Characters:

Holden Caulfield – Holden Caulfield is the main character and narrator of the story. The story consists of what he is telling a psychologist about several days that Holden spent in New York after being dismissed from Pencey Prep School. During the time he talks about he had been having a nervous breakdown. The death of his brother Allie, which he blames himself for, has made him depressed and sapped his motivation. Allie s death shows that Holden doesn t know much about the meaning of life and death – Holden does not take it very well, it drags him down quite a bit.

Phoebe Caulfield – Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s little sister. Very intelligent and loyal to Holden, she stops him from going west.

Overview: The novel is told as a flashback. It starts in Pencey Prep School. The time is near Christmas and Holden has found out that he has been expelled. After talking to his history teacher, Holden goes to his room. He decides that he hates everyone at the school, collects his possessions and leaves for N.Y.C.

On the train he meets a woman who turns out to be the mother of another student whom Holden knew at Pencey Prep. Holden lies about his identity and makes up a story about the woman s son. Later, he is mad at himself for this incident because he hates it when other people do that sort of thing acting fake. Holden likes when people are true to themselves – a nonconformist, so to speak.

When he gets to N.Y.C. he goes to hotel and gets a room. For the next couple of hours he goes in and out of his room and to various bars. At one point he has a prostitute come to his room, but then doesn t want to do anything except talk. Eventually, she leaves, but he gets in a fight with the pimp for being charged more than he was originally quoted. He complains about people who do that kind of thing.

Holden then spends more time wandering and buys a record for his sister, Phoebe. The record breaks when he accidentally drops it, but he saves the pieces for her anyway. Holden then goes home to visit Phoebe. Luckily, his parents are out and he stays there until they come home.

He then sneaks out and goes to the house of Mr. Antolini, his old teacher. Mr. Antolini puts Holden up for the night. Holden awakens to find Mr. Antolini patting his head. Startled and scared, Holden leaves Mr. Antolini s house and goes to the train station, where he spends the night.

The next day, he calls an old girlfriend of his and goes to a Broadway show with her. Holden spends more time wandering around N.Y.C., and eventually realizes how much he hates everyone except his sister, Phoebe. He decides that he is going to leave the East and head west. However, when Phoebe insists that she come with him, he reconsiders.

The final scene shows Holden watching over Phoebe while she is on a merry-go-round, in fulfillment of the title, Catcher in the Rye. Holden had explained to Phoebe that he wanted to be that person who catches the kids playing in the rye before they fall over a cliff, that he wanted to be sort of the ultimate babysitter. The final scene shows him in that role, just where he wanted to be.

A lot of the experiences Holden went through after the death of his brother Allie showed his rite of passage into adulthood. Holden encountered a prostitute, he wandered around New York City alone (a very dangerous place), and he pretty much has to fend for himself. Allie s death was a turning point in Holden s life.

Relevance to History: This is one of the few books that is read in American Studies purely for its value as literature, as the events of the book do not reflect the times. The only exception to this is the book s value in a discussion of the history of censorship of literature.


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