The Catcher in the Rye is a story by J. Salinger , partially published in serial form in — and as a novel in The novel was included on Time Magazine's list of the best English-language novels written since ,  and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield lives in an unspecified institution in Southern California in either or He intends to live with his brother D. Holden recalls the events of the previous Christmas. He plans to return home on that day so that he will not be present when his parents receive notice of his expulsion. After forfeiting a fencing match in New York by forgetting the equipment on the subway, he is invited to the home of his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, who is a well-meaning but long-winded old man.
Spencer greets him and offers him advice, but he embarrasses Holden by criticizing Holden's history exam. Holden returns to his dorm wearing the red hunting cap he bought in New York for one dollar. His dorm neighbor, Robert Ackley, also missing the game, is unpopular among his peers, and disturbs Holden with his impolite questioning and mannerisms.
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Holden, who feels sorry for Ackley, tolerates his presence. Later, Holden agrees to write an English composition for his roommate, Ward Stradlater, who is leaving for a date.
However, Holden is distressed to learn that Stradlater's date is Jane Gallagher, whom Holden had romantic feelings for and feels protective of. Since Ackley and Mal had already seen the film, they end up just playing pinball and returning to Pencey.
When Stradlater returns hours later, he fails to appreciate the deeply personal composition Holden wrote for him about the baseball glove of Holden's late brother Allie and refuses to say whether he slept with Jane.
Enraged, Holden punches him, and Stradlater easily wins the fight. When Holden continues insulting him, Stradlater knocks him unconscious and leaves him with a bloody nose. After leaving for Ackley's room, Holden is disappointed when he treats him rudely. Fed up with the "phonies" at Pencey Prep, Holden decides to leave Pencey early. He sells his typewriter and catches a train to Penn Station in New York. Holden intends to stay away from his home until Wednesday when his parents would have received his expulsion.
Aboard the train, Holden meets the mother of a wealthy, obnoxious Pencey student, Ernest Morrow, and lies to her about her son.
In a taxicab , Holden inquires with the driver whether the ducks in the Central Park lagoon migrate during winter, a subject he brings up often, but the man barely responds.
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Holden checks into the Edmont Hotel. He spends an evening dancing with three women from Seattle in the hotel lounge and enjoys dancing with one, though he is disappointed that they are unable to hold a conversation with him. Following an unpromising visit to Ernie's Nightclub in Greenwich Village , Holden becomes preoccupied with his internal angst and agrees to have a prostitute named Sunny visit his room.
His attitude toward the girl changes when she enters the room; she seems about the same age as him. Holden becomes uncomfortable, and when he tells her all he wants to do is talk, she becomes annoyed and leaves. Even though he maintains that he paid her the right amount for her time, she returns with her pimp Maurice and demands more money.
Holden insults Maurice, Sunny takes the money from Holden's wallet, and Maurice snaps his fingers on Holden's groin and punches him in the stomach. Afterward, Holden imagines that he has been shot by Maurice, and pictures murdering him with an automatic pistol. The next morning, Holden, becoming increasingly depressed and in need of personal connection, calls Sally Hayes, a familiar date. Although Holden claims that she is "the queen of all phonies," they agree to meet that afternoon to attend a play at the Biltmore Theater.
Holden shops for a special record , "Little Shirley Beans", for his year-old sister Phoebe. He spots a small boy singing " If a body catch a body coming through the rye ," which lifts his mood.
Although Holden's date initially goes well, it soon sours after Sally introduces her friend George. After the play, Holden and Sally go ice skating at Rockefeller Center , where Holden suddenly begins ranting against society and frightens Sally.
He impulsively invites Sally to run away with him that night to live in the wilderness of New England , but she is uninterested in his hastily conceived plan and declines.
The conversation turns sour, and the two angrily part ways. Holden decides to meet his old classmate, Carl Luce, for drinks at the Wicker Bar. During the meeting, Holden annoys Carl with his fixation on sex. After Luce leaves, Holden gets drunk, awkwardly flirts with several adults, and calls an icy Sally. Exhausted and out of money, Holden wanders over to Central Park to investigate the ducks, accidentally breaking Phoebe's record on the way.
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Nostalgically recalling his experience in elementary school and the unchanging dioramas in the Museum of Natural History that he enjoyed visiting as a child, Holden heads home to see his sister Phoebe. He sneaks into his parents' apartment while they are out, and wakes up Phoebe—the only person with whom he seems to be able to communicate his true feelings.
Although Phoebe is happy to see Holden, she quickly deduces that he has been expelled, and chastises him for his aimlessness and his apparent dislikes towards everything.
When asked if he cares about anything, Holden shares a selfless fantasy he has been thinking about based on a mishearing of Robert Burns 's Comin' Through the Rye. Because of this misinterpretation, Holden believes that to be the "catcher in the rye" means to save children from losing their innocence. When his mother returns home, Holden slips out and visits his former and much-admired English teacher, Mr.
Antolini, who is now a New York University professor.
Antolini expresses concern that Holden is headed for "a terrible fall" and advises him to begin applying himself and provides Holden with a place to sleep. Although Holden is exhausted, Holden is courteous and considers his advice.
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Holden is upset when he wakes up at night to find Mr. Antolini patting his head, which he interprets as a homosexual advance. He leaves and spends the rest of the night in a waiting room at Grand Central Station , where he sinks further into despair and expresses regret over leaving Mr. He spends most of Monday morning wandering Fifth Avenue.
Losing hope of finding belonging or companionship in the city, Holden impulsively decides that he will head out west and live a reclusive lifestyle as a gas station attendant.
He decides to see Phoebe at lunchtime to explain his plan and say farewell. While visiting Phoebe's school to give a forged excuse note, Holden sees graffiti containing the word "fuck" and becomes distressed by the thought of children learning the word's meaning and tarnishing their innocence. When he meets Phoebe at the Metropolitan Museum of Art , she arrives with a suitcase and asks to go with him, even though she was looking forward to acting as Benedict Arnold in a play that Friday. Holden refuses to let her come with him, which upsets Phoebe, so Holden decides not to leave.
He tries to cheer her up by allowing her to skip school and taking her to the Central Park Zoo , but she remains angry. They eventually reach the zoo's carousel , where Phoebe reconciles with Holden after he buys her a ticket. Holden is finally filled with happiness and joy at the sight of Phoebe riding.
In a short epilogue, Holden briefly alludes to encountering his parents that night and "getting sick," mentioning that he will be attending another school in September.
Holden says that he doesn't want to tell anything more, because he has found himself missing his former classmates. Various older stories by Salinger contain characters similar to those in The Catcher in the Rye. While at Columbia University , Salinger wrote a short story called " The Young Folks " in Whit Burnett 's class; one character from this story has been described as a "thinly penciled prototype of Sally Hayes".
The story " I'm Crazy ", which was published in the December 22, issue of Collier's , contained material that was later used in The Catcher in the Rye. In , The New Yorker accepted a page manuscript about Holden Caulfield for publication, but Salinger later withdrew it.
The Catcher in the Rye is narrated in a subjective style from the point of view of Holden Caulfield, following his exact thought processes. There is flow in the seemingly disjointed ideas and episodes; for example, as Holden sits in a chair in his dorm, minor events, such as picking up a book or looking at a table, unfold into discussions about experiences. Critical reviews affirm that the novel accurately reflected the teenage colloquial speech of the time.
Bruce Brooks held that Holden's attitude remains unchanged at story's end, implying no maturation, thus differentiating the novel from young adult fiction. Others highlight the dilemma of Holden's state, in between adolescence and adulthood. It is often said that Holden changes at the end, when he watches Phoebe on the carousel, and he talks about the golden ring and how it's good for kids to try and grab it.
Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" , identifies the movie that the prostitute "Sunny" refers to. In chapter 13 she says that in the movie a boy falls off a boat.
The movie is Captains Courageous , starring Spencer Tracy. Sunny says that Holden looks like the boy who fell off the boat. Beidler shows page 28 a still of the boy, played by child-actor Freddie Bartholomew. Each Caulfield child has literary talent.
Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes. Later, Phoebe and Holden exchange roles as the "catcher" and the "fallen"; he gives her his hunting hat, the catcher's symbol, and becomes the fallen as Phoebe becomes the catcher.
The Catcher in the Rye has been consistently listed as one of the best novels of the twentieth century. Burger called it "an unusually brilliant novel,"  while James Stern wrote an admiring review of the book in a voice imitating Holden's. Bush called it a "marvelous book," listing it among the books that have inspired him. Salinger, Jeff Pruchnic says the novel has retained its appeal for many generations.
However, not all reception has been positive. The book has had its share of critics, and many contemporary readers "just cannot understand what the fuss is about".
According to Rohrer, who writes, "many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique.
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That is to say, he has done nothing. In , a teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma was fired for assigning the novel in class; however, she was later reinstated. The challenges generally begin with Holden's frequent use of vulgar language;   other reasons includes sexual references,  blasphemy , undermining of family values  and moral codes,  encouragement of rebellion,  and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, promiscuity , and sexual abuse.
They are trying to be catchers in the rye. Additionally, after fatally shooting John Lennon , Mark David Chapman was arrested with a copy of the book that he had purchased that same day, inside of which he had written: "To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is my statement".