The Catcher in the Rye


Plot Summary

Holden Caulfield is rehabilitating in a California hospital. He begins to relay the events that occurred when he was expelled from Pencey Prep the previous winter during his sixteenth year.

His story begins with his return to Pencey after a failed fencing exhibition—failed because Holden accidentally left the team’s foils on the subway. His absent-mindedness is the cause of many of Holden’s problems. In fact, his expulsion is precisely because he doesn’t do his best work and try during his studies. He, however, has no love for the school and considers the students to be mean and the adults to be phony. His parents do not yet of his expulsion and he hesitates to return home before they receive the letter from the headmaster. He plans to hang out at Pencey for a few more days.

However, things do not go according to his plan. First, he visits Spencer, his old history teacher. Spencer tries to understand why Holden has failed. Holden attempts to explain that he simply did not care about all the information being taught in class. He tries to tell Spencer not to feel bad. Holden gives a hint of the thing he does care about: death—and the Central Park ducks. In other words, Holden is concerned with the mystery of life and why things are the way they are. Lectures bore him.

He excels, on the other hand, at writing compositions and English is the one class that he is not failing. None of this satisfies Spencer and all the old man can do is wish Holden good luck. Holden, sad and depressed, returns to his room.

Back at his dorm, he learns that his roommate Stradlater is going out with a girl Holden used to be good friends with, a girl named Jane Gallagher. Holden spends the next three days thinking about her and sometimes trying to call her. He ends up in a dispute with Stradlater over her. The fight leads to Holden’s decision to leave the Pencey Prep early and get a hotel in New York City and wait out the next few days there.

However, in New York City he quickly falls into a further depression than he had...

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