Although characters are mouthpieces of the writers and authors, sometimes they take up a persona of their own. The Catcher in The Rye has characters are alive merely due to the artistic skills of J. D. Salinger as they are relatable to every teenager and adult alike. Some of the major characters of The Catcher in The Rye are discussed below.
Characters in The Catcher in the Rye
Major character and also the sole narrator of the novel, The Catcher in The Rye, Holden is from Caulfield family. He is sixteen, gets admission in different schools after Pencey Prep but is expelled from each school. Brother of Phoebe and Allie, the deceased one, Holden faces difficulty in his childhood and teenage life. He tries to evade these difficult times through escapades into hotels and sexual fantasies in New York in hotels but finds no consolation. Under depression, he rides with different cab drivers, lying to all and pretending to be an important person. He also tries to write his story. The weight of adult life and impending responsibilities make him suffer from depression and other psychological issues. He dreams of becoming a “catcher in the rye” to save the children that may face the same dilemma when going to touch adulthood. He, in fact, wants to teach others that “Life is a game that one plays according to rules,” but he himself finds no rules.
Although Ward Stradlater could be called Holden’s foil, he actually supports Holden to be a man when he narrates his sexual prowess with different girls and women. He has been his roommate at Pencey Prep. He even dates with Holden’s friend, Jane Gallagher. Holden reacts to this mention of Jane’s name but agrees to write his essay for the composition class. When he boasts of his date with Jane, Holden picks up a fight with him, and it ends up injuring both. Although both are friends, Holden thinks that he is a “sexy bastard” and is only in love with himself. In fact, he has very deep impacts on Holden regarding arousing his jealousy and envy by dating with Jane.
Mr. Antolini is among the best teachers who have taught Holden during his stay at the Elkton Hills School. He is the only person who has won Holden’s admiration. Now working in the New York University, Mr. Antolini knows the fall of Holden and warns him of its possible consequences. However, the worst is that he is aware that “it is a special kind of fall” that Holden is going to experience. His expertise in human relations and behavior is at work to warn Holden of his depression and confusion. Perhaps, Holden is also aware of his genuine feelings for himself, the reason that he often visits Antolini at odd hours. By the end of the novel, he finds Antolini still encouraging him to live a normal life.
Phoebe Caulfield is the younger sister of Holden. She is aware of his behavior, and follies and knows what he is up to. The feature of her character that Holden loves the most is her listening quality. Holden knows that she listens to what he says. Perceptive and reasoning, Phoebe seems to be the only person he consults after his classes. That is why she scolds him for not liking any school to he confesses saying “Sometimes it is hard to concentrate.” By the end of the novel, Holden seems to turn to Phoebe when he visits the art museum.
Jana Gallagher is an important secondary character in that she plays an important role in Holden’s life. She meets him when both families are spending summer at Maine. She is the one whom Holden appreciates and feels jealous if somebody else desires to date with him such as Stradlater. Although she herself stays absent from the novel as a character, her impact on Holden’s actions can be seen in the shape of Holden’s physical brawl with Stradlater.
Like Jane Gallagher, Sally Hayes is another girl with whom Holden has successfully dated for long. However, Holden’s opinion about her is quite the opposite to what Holden thinks about Jane. She is actually stupid for him. It may be that she is physically more attractive than Jane, but she does not win Holden’s respect, as he gives to Jane. Despite calling a stupid, she rejects Holden’s suggestion of running away with him. Briefly stating, Holden has very mixed feelings about Sally.
Allie Caulfield is the younger brother of Holden and an important character in the novel. His death due to leukemia at the prime age of eleven impacts Holden very deeply. This tragedy moved him so much so that he could not adjust with life and connect with other people after Allie’s death. Allie’s prowess lies in writing poetry. He used to write poems on baseball gloves that Holden keeps with him in the rest of the novel.
Mr. Spencer is another teacher of Holden likes and respects. He becomes significant in that Holden goes to say his farewell when he leaves Pencey Prep. Mr. Spencer also tries to stop Holden from flunking classes and leaving the school. It is quite interesting to see that as Holden mostly lives in the past and thinks about the past events, it is perhaps the impact of Mr. Spencer’s history lectures that he likes the most. By the end, Holden just remembers his Egyptian history paper when he comes to tell him goodbye.
Working as an elevator operator, Maurice meets Holden when he visits his hotel. He also works as a pimp to supplement his income. He has the ability to identify people, as he identifies Holden as a runway and sexually hungry young man. That is why he asks him if he wants to have a good time and getting a positive response, he arranges a prostitute for him. Although Holden does not enjoy the time, Maurice forces him to pay him five dollars which Holden thinks is unjust and blackmail. His role realizes Holden of how the world goes regarding money.
Sunny is a young girl and works as a prostitute in the hotel where Maurice is an elevator operator. She is not only crude but also very nervous when she visits Holden. She seems to be hypersexual, as she undresses despite Holden’s unprepared attitude. Despite refusing her to have sex, Holden offers her fees of five dollars that she immediately takes and leaves with very rude comments.