The author and his times:
In 1919, Jerome David Salinger was born into this harsh harsh world, which he would criticize in his books to this day. Born to an Irish-Catholic mother and a wealthy Jewish father, young Jerome did not know what he was to be in life. His father pressured him greatly to become great and successful, causing great conflict between the two. His father wanted Jerome to take over the family meat and cheese packing/shipping business, but Jerome hated it, and did not desire to become rich or anything of that nature.
Like Holden Caulfield from his book The Catcher in the Rye, young Jerome found it difficult to concentrate on school and studies and was eventually sent to a military school by his father. This going to military school is reflected in the part of the book in which Holden is back at home explaining to Pheobe that he will not be killed, by his father, and that he would probably just be sent to military school.
After military school, Jerome attended Ursinus College, Columbia University, and New York University. He was soon drafted into the infantry division during WWII. Salinger saw some of the most gruesome battles of the war, including the Battle Normandy and the ultimately useless blood bath, which occurred in Hürtgenwald.
The horrors of war that Salinger witnessed traumatized him to the point where he was sent home because he received a Section 8. The horrors that he witnessed were so great, he never talks about it to anyone, and never wrote about it either. His first mental breakdown, as well as other smaller breakdowns caused by the trauma of war, is similar to the gradual mental breakdown of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, who eventually finds himself in a mental institution.(http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/salinger.htm).
Holden Caulfield-Holden Caulfield is the protagonist and narrator of the story. Holden's biggest pet peeve is that he hates people who are, or act, "phony." Holden hates all of the lies and, for lack of a better word, bullshit that the world is comprised of.
Though Holden himself lies a lot and tends to be scathingly sarcastic and pessimistic, he actually cares a lot about others and the world. Holden has what seems to be a classic case of the messiah-complex, which we can deduct from his want to be the "catcher in the rye." He wants to save all of the innocent and pure souls from "falling" off the "edge" of the moral "cliff."
In parts of the book we see Holden's mind slowly breaking down, which ultimately sends him to a mental-health clinic. The root cause to this is probably the death of his younger brother Allie. Allie died of leukemia three years before the story begins, and was a harsh blow to Holden and his mental health, permanently scarring him his emotional and mental self.
Phoebe Caulfield- Phoebe is Holden's 10-year-old sister. She is smart, a great dancer, and loves to write in these little journals that she has. Holden believes that she is the only one who really loves him anymore (pinkmonkey.com).
Allie Caulfield- Allie was Holden's beloved younger brother who died of leukemia. Like Jane, we never actually meet him in the story though Holden describes him and his great personality, several times in the book. Allie had red hair, and was supposedly very bright. He had a favorite baseball glove, which he wrote poems on. It was most likely Allie's death that had the most impact on Holden's life, and which caused him to be the pessimistic, sad, lonely, and scared individual that he is today.
Jane Gallagher- Jane Gallagher was Holden Caulfield's friend and girlfriend when he was younger and is still admired very much by Holden. Though we actually never meet Jane in the book, Holden tells us that she is both beautiful, smart, and not phony, a very rare thing in Holden's world. Her stepfather is an alcoholic, and may beat/rape her. Though she is normally cheery,...