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The Catcher in the Rye

by: JD Salinger

Read by: Andrew Woo and Matthew Alen

Character List:

Holden Caulfield- Main Character, 16 years old
Stradlater- Roommater, dates Jane Gallagher
Spencer- History teacher, scolds Holden for failing
Ackley- Nextdoor neighbor. Annoying and has poor hygiene
Jane Gallagher- Ex-girlfriend of Holden. He still likes her.
Pheobe Caulfield- Holden's sister. She is very important to him
Allie Caulfield- Holden's younger brother. Died from leukemia
Sally Hayes- Ex-girlfriend of Holden.
Carl Luce- Was Holden's student advisor at his previous school. Now goes to Columbia.
Sunny- Prostitute that Holden meets during his stay at the Edmont Hotel.
Maurice- The elevator attendant in the Edmont Hotel.
Antolini- Holden's former English teacher


Synopsis:

The books opens with Holden Caulfield, the main character and narrator. The entirety of the book centers around Holden's experiences starting at the end of his fall semester and ending around Christmas. Holden introduces himself as Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old boy currently attending Pencey Preparatory School in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. Getting kicked out of 4 schools and failing most of his classes while attending his current school, Holden receives a notice stating that he is to be expelled from Pencey Preparatory School. Holden then ventures by himself, encountering old friends and family and having interesting exchanges with each of them. First of his encounters is his history teacher Spencer. Spencer reprimands him for failing out of his classes and as Holden gets more and more irritated at this scolding, he decides to leave. His next major encounter is his roommate: Stradlater. Stradlater is on a date with Jane Gallagher, who, Holden explains, used to go out with Holden himself. Holden still likes Jane and so when Stradlater returns from the date, Holden inquires about their date. Stradlater begins teasing him, sending Holden into a fit of rage which ends with Holden having a bloody nose and deciding to leave to Manhattan, his home city, early. He then arrives at New York, after having a minor encounter with a friend's mother on the train, and checks into the Edmont Hotel. While looking into the rooms of other guests, he becomes aroused and calls a friend, Faith Cavendish, who he heard used to be a stripper. Holden then goes down to the Lavender Room of the Edmont Hotel and flirts with women who he referes to as being in "half love" with them. After he leaves, he has a flashback which provides some history between Jane and him. He leaves the hotel and goes to Ernie's Jazz Club, where he meets a friend Lillian Simmons, who he avoids and leaves. As he enters the hotel, Maurice, the hotel elevator operator notices that he looks upset and offers to send a prostitute up to his room, which he agrees to. Thus he meets Sunny. However, when Sunny arrives, instead of having sex, Holden sits next to her and engages her conversation, and then after some time, pays her and walks her out. The following day, he meets some nuns with whom he discusses Romeo and Juliet with, and then moves on to call Sally Hayes, an old girlfriend from school. He sets up a date with her and then spends his day looking for his sister, who is introduced as Pheobe. Unable to find Pheobe, he goes on his date with Sally and asks her to run away with him. She refuses and he leaves, irritated. He then calls Carl Luce, an old friend of his who now attends Columbia University. They decide to go out for drinks but Carl quickly becomes annoyed with Holden's ignorance, and makes an excuse to leave early. Holden then goes to Pheobe's apartment and tells her about him getting kicked out of school, which upsets her. They reference a poem that attributes to the title of the book and then Holden leaves to visit his English teacher, Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini offers Holden his couch for the night but Holden quickly makes excuses to leave as he notices Mr. Antolini making advances on him. As a result, Holden spends the night sleeping on a bench. The next morning, Holden finds Pheobe and tells her that he is planning on running away. When he comes to say goodbye however, she has her suitcases packed and insists on coming with him, which Holden refuses. Holden takes her to the zoo and nearby park and while he watches Pheobe having fun, he finally finds it in himself to stay. And with that, Holden finishes his narrative.

History of the Time Period:

1950s

The 1950s were a changing time, mainly in the sense that people were starting to leave traditional values, regarding sexuality, morality, and obedience. It was a more rebellious time for society, and a sort of loss of innocence that was happening earlier for people of that time. The Catcher in the Rye was written in 1951, hailing in the movement, but there was backlash agaisnt Salinger at this time because the ideas presented in his book were still very controversial. After its massive up rise in success, he, in a way, came into the public eye and came under scrutiny. He, however, became very reclusive after he gained public scrutiny.

I think the reason that this book came under scrutiny was that it reflected things about society that most people prefered to ignore. Reflecting internal thoughts of an angsty teenager doesn't reflect well on society. The amount of cursing was considered very in-you-face and rude in some ways, especially in the more religious communities. Also the teenage sex was very controversial and vulgar for that time, all sex outside of wedlock. Also involvement with prostitution and such was completely wrong in that time. Even the idea of hating the people who love cards was considered rebellious.















Independent Reading Book Research
Research the following topics and take notes on what you think may shed light on the text you are reading. Be sure to cite what websites you took your information from as you will want to revisit those websites later and incorporate your research into the final project.
-History of time period in which the story was set

-History of time period when the novel/memoir was written

-History of the story’s setting/location (If there are several settings, research them all)

-Biography of author

-Literary movement to which your book belongs

-How the book was initially received, how the book has impacted other literature, how the book reflected something important about society