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The catcher in the rye: Novel, summary, review

Hey readers! Welcome to the page. Today we’d be talking about the historic coming of age novel, ‘The catcher in the rye’. The novel is written by American author J D Salinger. It was initially published in the form of a serial from 1945 to 1946, and it was finally published as a novel in 1951. It was an instant success and is still considered as one of the best young-adults of all time. Even though it was initially published almost 75 years ago, it’s still a widely read novel and probably a teenager’s favorite. Overall, more than 65 million copies have been sold worldwide, with the number increasing continuously. The novel got 15th spot in BBC’s The Big Read survey and has been critically acclaimed all over the world.

‘For U.S. readers, the prize catch in The Catcher in the Rye may well be Novelist Salinger himself.’ -TIME

‘Holden Caulfield holds a place in the American psyche akin to Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer: an exquisitely rendered character with whom nearly anyone can identify.’ -Liz Perle, Common Sense Media.

‘I think many teenagers would be able to relate to the theme- it’s a modern classic of the coming of age genre.’ – The Guardian

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Now, let’s get straight to the summary of this hilarious coming of age novel.

PS: If you’ve read and loved ‘The Perks of being a Wallflower’, it’s a must read for you.

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The catcher in the rye: Summary

“People are always ruining things for you”

Holden Caulfield, the 17-year-old narrator, and protagonist narrate the story about his life in the last year since he was expelled from his school named Pencey.

He initiates by telling that how he has been expelled from the Pencey prep school, and that this was the fourth school he has been expelled from. Holden’s brother D.B went to Hollywood as a story writer, but Holden states that he hates movies! Holden is expelled from the school due to his poor academic performance as he’s failed in four out of five subjects. However, he manages to pass in English with considerable scores, as it’s his favorite subject.

As he’s being expelled and would leave the school soon, he goes to meet his History teacher, old Mr. Spencer. Holden goes to his house in order to say goodbye to him, but his visit turns out to be a blunder as he’s been blessed with a long and annoying lecture by Mr. Spencer about his poor academics and his concerns regarding Holden’s future.

He moves back to his dormitory, where he is further annoyed by his neighbor, Ackley. Holden considers Ackley as most unhygienic person he’s ever seen. Ackley is an unpopular kid in the school due to his weird behavior and manners, and Holden feels sorry for him. Holden also doesn’t like his roommate, Ward Stradlater, but he admires his body language and looks. Stradlater’s habit of frequently looking into mirror annoys Holden a lot.

“All morons hate it when you call them a moron”

Stradlater asks Holden to write a descriptive composition for him as he’s going out on a date. Holden gets shocked and pretty nervous when he gets to know that Stradlater’s date is Jane Gallagher. She was Holden’s best friend and they’ve dated in the past. And Holden still adores her and feels quite protective of her. And deep down, he doesn’t want Stradlater to date, Jane. Holden writes a descriptive paragraph about the baseball glove of his late younger brother, Allie. Allie was Holden’s younger brother who passed away at an early age due to leukemia.

When Stradlater returns, Holden continuously asks him about what he did with Jane. Stradlater refuses to answer him and tells him that he didn’t like the descriptive paragraph Holden wrote. Outraged by the response, Holden tries to slam him and starts a fight with Stradlater, but ends with a blow on his nose leaving his face covered with blood. Devastated by these events, Holden decides to immediately leave Pencey for New York. He decides to live in a hotel for the rest of the days and not tell his parents and move home when the Christmas holidays start.

On the train to New York, he meets the mother of a rich Pencey student. When she asks him about her child’s performance and manners at school, Holden tells her that he’s great and well-mannered, which was a lie and Holden hates him to hell in reality and he’s just the opposite. Later, Holden moves to a phone booth and decides to call certain friends, but ends up calling no one.

“People always clap for the wrong reasons”

He checks in a hotel called Edmont. He doesn’t like his room as it’s all messy, and from his window, he sees the people of the other wing doing some disgusting and inappropriate things. After some time, Holden moves downstairs to a pub where he meets three women. He tries to interact with them but soon gets annoyed as all they wanted is to catch a glimpse of a celebrity. He dances with the blonde one and gets really impressed by her dancing skills. Although he fails to interact or develop a relationship with either one of them, he pays their bills.

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He moves back to his room and feels all depressed. He starts thinking about Jane Gallagher. Holden remembers how they met each other in the summer vacation and used to spent most of the time playing golf and checkers. About how they went to movies and held hands. He remembers how Jane had problems with her stepfather, as once while playing checkers, her stepfather’s presence made her cry. And how he sat beside Jane to give her sympathy and kissed her on her face.

Next day, feeling depressed and alone, Holden calls Sally Hays. They’ve dated earlier. He calls her to meet him and arranges two tickets of a play. Holden eats his breakfast at a small cafe where he meets two nuns. They discuss Romeo and Juliet. While leaving Holden gives them ten dollars for their charity, however, the nuns refuse to take the donation, he insists them on keeping it.

“I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it”

Holden and Sally goes to watch the play. Holden doesn’t like the play. He further gets irritated when Sally starts talking with a boy about a play which Holden finds largely uninteresting. They go for ice skating but couldn’t skate properly. So Holden arranges a table in a cafe for them. In the cafe, Holden tries to explain Sally that how he hates almost everything at school and isn’t very happy with his life. He later explains her his plan about running away to some other city and leaving the place and get a job somewhere and start over in his life. He insists Sally to run away with him but she refuses. Holden gets outraged and calls her a ‘pain in the ass’. Sally gets devastated and starts sobbing, Holden apologizes but she leaves angrily.

Holden than meets an old friend named Carl Luce, they go to a bar and drink. Holden tries to ask certain questions about Carl’s personal life, but he replies coldly. After Carl leaves, Holden moves out of the bar and he’s really drunk. He spends sometime in the Central Park. And suddenly, Holden decides to move to his house and meet Phoebe, his younger sister, who is quite adorable to Holden. He sneaks in his apartment and quietly moves to Phoebe’s room and finds her. Fortunately, she informs that their parents are out, but could return anytime. Phoebe predicts that Holden has been kicked out of the school once again and Holden admits. She gets mad at him and she keeps saying, “Daddy would kill you”, which irritates Holden a lot.

“I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.

Holden tells her that how he hates school and probably every single thing that’s happening to him. Phoebe asks him to name anything that he ‘likes’ and Holden couldn’t give a proper answer to her question. She accuses Holden of not liking anything. Holden finally tells her something which he likes and wanted to do. He explains her that he wants to be a ‘catcher in the rye’. He wants to catch little kids who are playing in the rye and running through the rye towards the edge of the cliff, and save them from falling. Holden tells her that he got the idea when he hears a kid singing, “if a body catch a body coming through the rye.” Phoebe tells him that he misheard the song and it’s actually, “if a body meet a body coming through the rye.”

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Holden’s parents arrives and Holden somehow manages to escape quietly. He later goes to his former teacher, Mr. Antolini’s apartment. Mr. Antolini and his wife welcomes Holden. Mr. Antolini lectures Holden about his deteriorating academics and how he’ll be ‘falling’ in the future if he doesn’t change his ways. Holden sleeps on the couch, later in the night, Holden wakes up suddenly finding Mr. Antolini patting his forehead. Holden takes it the wrong way and decides to leave instantly by giving an excuse. He later spends the night in Grand Central Station.

When he wakes up, he finally decides to leave everything and move away. He decides to meet Phoebe at her school to say goodbye. He gives a note to Phoebe asking her to meet him during lunchtime at the museum. However, Holden believes that Phoebe wouldn’t have gotten the note and she won’t meet him. But, to his surprise, he sees Phoebe coming towards him with a big suitcase full of clothes and other things.

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one”

She requests him to take her with him, but Holden refuses. Phoebe starts crying and gets angry at him and refuses to talk. So Holden takes her to the zoo, Phoebe comes with him, but still won’t talk to him. He buys her a ticket to carousel, she finally talks to him and insists him to ride on carousel with her. Holden refuses and tells her that he’d ride next time. He sits on the bench and just watches Phoebe riding the carousel, and it makes him so happy and relaxed that he starts crying silently.

Holden concludes by telling that he went home and got sick and finally met his parents. And that he’d be joining another school in next fall. He also indicates that he’s seeing a psychologist. He states that he has started missing ‘everybody’ and even Stradlater and Ackley!

The catcher in the rye: Review

Well, to be honest, this would be the hardest novel review for me, and it would be for you too if you’ve read the novel.

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The catcher in the rye starts like any other young adult whose protagonist is depressed and is ‘weird’. It starts brilliantly and follows it’s brilliance in the initial chapters. But as you move forward, the novel gets boring and won’t be as appealing as the initial chapters as it looses it’s momentum. The novel is hilarious for sure and that’s the best thing about it. It’s also relatable to the life of teenagers (not every teenager but some special ones like the great protagonist, and I’m one of them!). But the ending of the novel and the protagonist’s interactions with his little sister is really adorable and it’s enough to cover up for the middle part.

Talking about the characters, none of the characters except Allie and Phoebe are adorable. And there’s only one main character in the novel, and like the protagonist, you’d be hating each and every character other than Allie and Phoebe! You might have different views about it, but I didn’t find the protagonist appealing. I mean there are other similar protagonists like Charlie from ‘The Perks of being a wallflower’ which (in my view) is much better. But, in the end, you’d learn a great lesson from him and so did I.

The catcher in the rye doesn’t have twists and turns or some tragic moments and that’s probably a drawback. And it lacks a good plot. But in the end, it’s appealing to the teens and would be a good read if you love these young adults.

Love reading Young Adults, here are some books we recommend you to read.

1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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2) Looking for Alaska by John Green

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3) Paper Towns by John Green 

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4) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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