AP Note Card: Catcher in the Rye
Title: Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Setting: 1949 New York City
Holden Caulfield- He is the protagonist and 16 years old when the story took place. He is telling
the story while at the psychoanalyst. He is the narrator of the story.
Phoebe Caulfield- She is Holden’s younger sister. She is around nine years old. She adores
Holden but does not agree with his behavior at boarding school.
Allie Caulfield- He was Holden’s younger brother. He died of Leukemia when Holden was
thirteen years old. Holden thinks about him a lot and even talks to him. He thinks Allie was the
nicest in the family.
D.B. Caulfield- He is Holden’s older brother. He lives in Hollywood and is a writer, which
Holden considers selling out.
Mr. Spencer- He was Holden’s teacher at Pencey Prep school who Holden goes to say goodbye
to before he leaves; Holden likes him compared to his other teachers.
Ward Stradlatter- He is Holden’s roommate at Pencey.
Robert Ackley- He lives next to Holden at Pencey and has a tendency to go through Holden’s
things. Holden calls him “Ackley Kid” even though he hates it.
Jane Gallagher- She was Holden’s neighbor one summer. She is not physically in the novel, but
she was Holden’s only real friend.
Holden Caulfield went to Pencey Preparatory school in Pennsylvania. He is kicked out
due to his poor grades. After he watches some of the football game by himself, he goes to visit
his teacher, Mr. Spencer, to say goodbye. Mr. Spencer was his history teacher at Pencey. They
talk about why Holden is kicked out of Pencey, and how he flunked out of two other Prep
schools, Whooton and Elkton Hills. Holden leaves and goes back to his room. While he is
reading his book, Robert Ackley, who lives in the room next to his, comes in. He is nosy and
goes through everything in Holden’s room. This is when Holden takes out his red hunting hat
that he bought. He wears it throughout most of the novel. Later Holden’s roommate Ward
Stradlatter comes in. He asks Holden to write a descriptive essay for him because he has a date.
Holden writes it on his Brother Allie’s baseball mitt, which has poems written on it. Stradlatter’s
date is an old friend of Holden’s, Jane Gallagher. Holden gets excited but never goes down to
see her. When Stradlatter gets back Holden gets upset when Stradlatter won’t tell him what he
and Jane did. They get into a fight and Holden goes to sleep in Ackley’s room. Later, Holden
leaves Ackley’s room and decides to leave Pencey and go to New York.
He takes the train and on the train he sits next to Ernest Morrow’s, a boy from Pencey,
mother. Holden tells her lies about Ernest until he tells her that he has a brain tumor and is
leaving school early for an operation. When Holden gets to New York, he gets a cab to the
Edmont Hotel and calls the number of girl someone gave him, but she does not want to have
drinks with him. He goes to the hotel bar and sits and dances with three blondes who keep
looking for movie stars. When they leave he starts thinking about Jane again, and how they
spent the summer together. She was the only one, outside of the family, that he ever showed
Allie’s baseball mitt to. He thinks about how she kept her kings in the back row when they
played checkers and how they would hold hands. He remembers when her mother’s boyfriend
came out one time and asked where his cigarettes were, but Jane wouldn’t answer him and
started crying. Jane was Holden’s only real friend.
Holden gets another cab and this time asks the cabbie where the ducks go in the winter,
but the cabbie doesn’t know. He takes Holden to Ernie’s Bar. While he’s there, Holden sees a
friend of D.B.’s with her fiancé. He stays for a while and then walks back to the hotel because
he doesn’t like being surrounded by phonies and “Ivy League Jerks”. When he gets in the
elevator at the hotel, the elevator operator Maurice asks him if he wants a prostitute sent to his
room. Holden agrees and goes back to his room to get ready. When she comes, he regrets it and
tells her he just wants to talk. He pays her five dollars so that she leaves. After she leaves he
gets into bed but Maurice and Sunny, the prostitute, come back to his room. Maurice claims that
Holden was supposed to pay fifteen dollars. Maurice beats Holden up and Sunny gets the
money from his wallet. When they leave, Holden pretends that Maurice had shot him in the guts
and that he was dying. He thinks about jumping out the window and committing suicide but he
doesn’t because nobody would cover him up. The next morning he calls Sally Hayes, and makes
plans to see a show with her. Then, he goes to eat breakfast, where he meets two nuns, whom he
talks about literature while he eats.
After breakfast, Holden goes to the park to look for Phoebe. He speaks to two kids who
tell him that she might be at the museum, and even though he knows she isn’t, he goes that way
anyway. Holden remembers the museum as being the only place that never changes and remains
the same. He says that the best part about it is that everything is always right where it was the
last time you saw it was. When he gets to the museum he doesn’t feel like going in, so he goes
to meet Sally. He and Sally see the show and during intermission, they see a friend of Sally’s
that Holden thinks is a phony. After the show they go to eat and Holden tries to get sally to run
away with him and live in a rancher by themselves. She gets upset with him, though, and she
leaves. Holden calls Carl Luce, a guy he knew at Whooton Prep, and makes plans to see him
later. Later after seeing a movie he goes to meet Carl at the bar. At the bar, Carl tells Holden
that he needs to grow up, and leaves soon after. Holden stays at the bar for some time and then
leaves. He leaves and tries to find the ducks in Central Park. He can’t find them so he sits in the
cold and thinks about what would happen if he died.
Then he goes to see Phoebe. When he goes to see her she gets upset that he was kicked
out of another school. When she tells Holden that he never wants to be anything he tells her that
he would like to be the catcher in the rye. He pictures children playing in a field of rye that has a
cliff and he catches before them before they fall off. His parents come home though and he has
to leave so they don’t find him. Phoebe gives him her Christmas money before he goes. He
calls his old teacher Mr. Antolini, who he likes, like Mr. Spencer. He goes to stay with Mr.
Antolini, but in the middle of the night leaves, because he awakes to find Mr. Antolini’s hand on
his head, and it freaks him out. He leaves but has nowhere to go so he keeps walking. While he
is walking, he starts talking to Allie, and asks him to help him get across each street safely. He
feels like he is going to fall into the street every time he crosses. He then decides that he will go
away and live on his own. He writes Phoebe a note and tells her he is leaving to go west and
start a new life. He tells her to meet him so he can give her back her Christmas money. When
he goes to her school to give the note, he sees profanities on the walls, which upsets him that
Phoebe would see that.
When Phoebe meets him, she gets upset that he is going to leave and won’t let her go
with him. They walk awhile and Phoebe won’t talk to him the whole time. Holden finally tells
her that he wouldn’t leave. They reach Central Park, and Holden gives her money to ride the
carousel. He watches her try to get the gold ring like the rest of the kids.
The novel ends with Holden at the psychoanalyst. Holden tells the whole story from the
psychoanalyst’s office. He is going back to school in September and is being visited people who
keep asking him question. He says, “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start
The story only takes place in three days and two nights.
Bildungsroman: Holden goes through a series of experiences that contribute to his growth and
First Person: Holden tells the story from his own point of view, which makes the reader question
whether he is a reliable narrator or not, especially because he says that he is a great liar.
Symbolism: Holden’s Hunting Hat- It serves as Holden’s attempt to be unique and an individual
compared to everyone else. Catcher in the Rye- It symbolizes the only thing that Holden wants
to do, which is catch the children before they fall, which can mean he wants to preserve their
innocence. The Gold Ring on the carousel-The gold ring is what Phoebe keeps reaching for at
the end but doesn’t reach-much like Holden trying to reach for what he wants but never achieves.
Phonies- Phonies are anybody that Holden feels are fake, most people that he meets. Allie’s
Mitt- It serves as Holden’s reminder of Allie because he always carries it with him. Natural
History Museum: This symbolizes most clearly Holden’s dislike for change and his desire for
some things to stay the same.
Flashback: Holden often remembers back when he was younger, for example; the summer with
Jane, the natural history museum, his brother Allie.
Idiom: The novel is narrated informally, Holden tells his story as if he is carrying a conversation
with the reader.
Themes: Holden’s quest to be different from others and not be a phony, Holden wants to
preserve everything, Holden’s lack of following through with ideas, Holden’s coming of age
Motifs: Individuality, rebellion, loneliness/isolation, growing up, change, adulthood