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Holden Caulfield - The protagonist and narrator of the novel. When the novel opens, Holden is a sixteen year-old junior at a school called Pencey Prep; he has just been expelled for academic failure. Holden is intelligent and sensitive, but he narrates his story in a cynical, jaded voice. Though he never says so outright, he longs to live in a beautiful and innocent world, and finds the hypocrisy and ugliness of the world around him almost unbearably painful; his cynicism is his attempt to protect himself from the pain and disappointment of the adult world. As the novel opens, Holden stands poised on the cliff separating childhood from adulthood; his damaged innocence also leaves him poised on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Ackley - Holden's next-door neighbor in the dorm at Pencey Prep, a pimply, insecure boy with terrible dental hygiene.
Ackley often barges into Holden's room and acts completely oblivious to Holden's hints that he should leave; he also makes up elaborate lies about his sexual experience. Stradlater - Holden's roommate. Stradlater is handsome, self- satisfied, and popular, but Holden calls him a "secret slob" -- his razor, for instance, is disgustingly unclean. Stradlater is sexually mature and experienced for a Pencey boy, and utterly preoccupied with himself; he tends to assume everyone else is preoccupied with him, too.
Jane Gallagher - Holden's former girlfriend, now dating Stradlater. Jane's summer house in Maine is next door to the Caulfield's'. Jane never actually appears in The Catcher in the Rye, but she is extremely important to Holden -- she is one of the few people who seem to understand and care about him, and is the only person with whom Holden feels comfortable discussing Allie's death. Jane's stepfather is an alcoholic, and their relationship is painful and strained.
Phoebe - Holden's ten year-old sister. Holden loves Phoebe very dearly; even though she is six years younger, she tends to understand what he means, and he feels comfortable talking to her. Phoebe is intelligent, neat, and a wonderful dancer. Her childish innocence is one of Holden's only consistent sources of happiness throughout the novel.
Allie - Holden's younger brother, who died of leukemia three years before the start of the novel. Allie was a brilliant, friendly, redheaded boy; Holden says he was the smartest of the Caulfield's, and is tormented by his death. The night Allie died, Holden slept in the garage, and broke all the windows with his bare hands, shattering both his hands and landing him in the hospital during Allie's funeral. One of Holden's most prized possessions, a baseball glove on which Allie wrote poems in green ink, first belonged to Allie. D. B. - Holden's older brother, a writer.
D. B. used to write stories that Holden admired, but before the start of the novel he moved to Hollywood to write for the movies, lured by the money -- he now drives a Jaguar and dates movie stars. Holden still thinks D. B. is adequate company, but can't quite forgive his brother for selling out to the movies, which Holden considers the phoniest and most despicable entertainment imaginable.
Sally Hayes - Another of Holden's girlfriends, a young socialite who attends the Mary A. Woodruff girls's chool. Unlike Jane's, Sally's main motivation is to be attractive and popular, and she succeeds. Holden is attracted to Sally's beauty and charisma, but her hypocrisy and cruelty repel him. Carl Luce - A student at Columbia whom Holden knew when they both attended the Whooton School. Luce is three years older than Holden, and has a great deal of sexual experience; at Whooton, he used to entertain the younger boys with sex stories and advice.
Now he is dating a Chinese sculptress in Greenwich Village whom he believes to be in her late 30 s. Holden considers Luce to be effeminate and possibly deviant, but he claims to find him amusing. Mr. Antolini - Holden's former English teacher at the Elkton Hills School, now a teacher at New York University. Mr.
Antolini is young, clever, sympathetic and likable, and Holden seems to respect him. But Mr. Antolini sometimes seems a bit too clever to Holden, and he also appears to have a drinking problem. The Catcher in the Rye is narrated by Holden Caulfield, a sixteen year-old boy recuperating in a rest home from a nervous breakdown, some time in 1950.
Holden tells the story of his last day at a school called Pencey Prep, and of his subsequent psychological meltdown in New York City. Holden has been expelled from Pencey for academic failure, and after an unpleasant evening with his self-satisfied roommate Stradlater and their pimply next-door neighbor Ackley, he decides to leave Pencey for good and spend a few days alone in New York City before returning to his parents' Manhattan apartment. In New York, he succumbs to increasing feelings of loneliness and desperation brought on by the hypocrisy and ugliness of the adult world; he feels increasingly tormented by the memory of his younger brother Allie's death, and his life is complicated by his burgeoning sexuality. He wants to see his sister Phoebe and his old girlfriend Jane Gallagher, but instead he spends his time with Sally Hayes, a shallow socialite Holden's age, and Carl Luce, a pretentious Columbia student Holden treats as a source of sexual knowledge. Increasingly lonely, Holden finally decides to sneak back to his parents' apartment to talk to Phoebe.
He borrows some money from her, then goes to stay with his former English teacher, Mr. Antolini. When he believes Mr. Antolini to be making a homosexual advance toward him, Holden leaves his apartment, and spends the rest of the night on a bench in Grand Central Station. The next day Holden experiences the worst phase of his nervous breakdown. He wanders the streets, looking at children and talking to Allie.
He tries to leave New York forever and hitchhike west, but when Phoebe insists on going with him he relents, agreeing to go back home to protect his sister from the ugliness of the world. He takes...
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