Quicklet on J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

by John M. Whalen

What's in the book?

Quicklets: Your reading sidekick!

    • About the Book
    • About the Author
    • Synopsis
    • Chapter-By-Chapter Commentary & Summary
    • Key Character List
    • Key Terms and Definitions
    • Major Themes and Symbols
    • Interesting Related Facts
    • Additional Reading



Salinger wrote a letter to Esquire in 1945: “The men who have been in this war deserve some sort of trembling melody rendered without embarrassment or regret,” (Esquire). In 1951, Salinger delivered just that.

The Catcher in the Rye is not a war novel, but a riveting amalgam of the disillusionments and malcontent that Salinger likely incubated throughout his young life. Depression, trauma, and loss of innocence are brought to a point so fine that the book’s publication erupted critical and popular disagreement on a scale that remains unmatched today.


I am a recent college graduate from Boston and an aspiring novelist. I spend my time reading, writing, traveling, and studying Swahili, Spanish and French.


Holden first comments that he feels like he’s disappearing every time he crosses a road, and then that he and old Spencer are “too much on opposite sides of the pole” to talk much. These are both symptoms of Holden’s sense of alienation, which will continue to emerge in subsequent chapters.

Holden is cynical when discussing the Pencey football game. When he tries to think of a goodbye for the school, though, he produces a cherished memory of playing catch with a football. It was no organized game, though, just he and a few buddies chucking a football around as it slowly got too dark to see. To Holden, a few friends struggling to see the ball together is a more authentic experience than attending a school-organized match is.

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