Name ____________________ The Catcher in the Rye Study Guide Setting The Catcher in the Rye begins in 1950 in California, where the main character, Holden Caulfield, is undergoing psychiatric therapy. It then flashes back to a day in December 1949, when Holden Caulfield leaves Pencey Prep in the fictional town of Agerstown in southeastern Pennsylvania after flunking out. Pencey Prep is a boarding school for boys of well-to-do parents. Caulfield leaves Pencey Prep late at night on a train bound for New York City, via Trenton, N.J. Caulfield then spends several days in New York City. Bookend Structure The story begins and ends at a California treatment center in which 17-year-old Holden Caulfield is undergoing therapy for his mental problems. In the first paragraph of Chapter 1, Holden announces that he is going to tell the reader about the “madman stuff” that happened to him in December of the previous year before he “got pretty run-down.” In the second paragraph, he begins telling the story by flashing back to a Saturday in that previous December. He continues his tale until the end of Chapter 25. In Chapter 26, Holden returns to the present, when he is undergoing treatment at the California center. Thus, the plot structure resembles a row of books kept in place by bookends on the left and right. The bookends are the beginning and end of the novel, when Holden is undergoing treatment; the books are the chapters that tell his story. Most of the episodes in the novel are self-contained stories, in a manner of speaking, with their own expositions and climaxes. Characters Holden Caulfield : Main character. Intelligent but insecure high-school junior who is expelled from Pencey Prep–the fourth boarding school he has attended–for failing four out of five subjects. Caulfied is 6 feet, 2½ inches tall. He has a patch of gray hair on the right side of his head. D.B. Caulfield : Holden's older brother, a writer in Hollywood. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, participating in the D-Day landing. Allie Caulfield : Holden's younger brother. When still only a child, he died of leukemia. Phoebe Caulfield : Holden's ten-year-old sister. Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield : Holden's parents, who live in an apartment building in New York City. Mr. Caulfield is a corporate lawyer. Robert Ackley : Pencey Prep senior whom Holden befriends even though Ackley annoys him with his habit of poking through Holden's personal belongings. Mr. Antolini : Holden's English teacher at Elkton Hills. He allows Holden to stay at his apartment in New York City. Jane Gallagher : Friend from back home whom Holden befriended when he was growing up. He likes her and worries that Stadlater, who had a date with her, may have tried to compromise her virtue. Sally Hayes : Girl Holden once dated. He calls her in New York, and they attend a play and go ice skating.
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