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Free Study Guide-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger-Free BookNotes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The novel is framed by the first and last chapters, which take place somewhere in California in a psychiatric rest home. The main action of the novel takes place first at a boarding school in Agerstown, Pennsylvania and then mainly in New York City. The narrative is evocative of Manhattan in the 1950’s, taking place at and around the various landmarks of New York City, such as Grand Central Station, Greenwich Village, Radio City Music Hall, and the famous Central Park.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Holden Caulfield

The sixteen year-old narrator whose experiences form the action of the novel. He seems to have a history of expulsion and failure at various prep schools because of his inability to adjust to institutional life and the world in general. His recent expulsion from Pencey Prep and a series of other harrowing experiences lead him to an inevitable emotional breakdown.


Phoebe

Holden’s younger sister, whom he loves and respects completely. She is ten, but very clever and passionate. Throughout the book, Holden thinks Phoebe is the only person in the world who 2understands and loves him completely. Towards the end of the plot, he is disappointed that Phoebe scolds him for being expelled from school and questions what he is going to do with his life. She makes it up to him, however, when she packs her suitcase and wants to run away with him.

Minor Characters

Allie

Holden’s younger brother who died of leukemia on July 18, 1946. Allie was extremely close to Holden, and Holden believes that Allie was "about fifty times as intelligent" as anyone Holden has ever known. Allie had a fielder’s mitt that he had written poems all over in green ink, to give him something to read when he was in the outfield all alone. Holden keeps the fielder’s mitt with him wherever he goes.

D.B.

Holden’s older brother, a writer who once published a collection called ‘The Secret Goldfish’. D.B. is now employed as a scriptwriter in Hollywood. This occupation, in Holden’s eyes, is equivalent to prostitution. Holden speaks mostly of D.B.’s "selling out" to Hollywood.

Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield

Holden’s parents who are unable to provide him with the parental understanding that he needs. Mr. Caulfield is a corporation lawyer, and Mrs. Caulfield is a housewife. Very little is revealed about these two characters, and only Mrs. Caulfield is ever seen, and then only briefly.

Mr. Antolini

Holden’s English teacher from Elkton Hills who is now teaching at New York University. Holden holds him in the highest regard and believes him to be a guardian of morality. In his hour of need, Holden goes to Mr. Antolini for help. Mr. Antolini is a sensitive man, about D.B.’s age, married to a wealthy older woman.

Mrs. Antolini

Mr. Antolini’s wife, who is both more wealthy and older than her husband.

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