The Catcher in the Rye: Character Analysis

Made Possible By Shirley Chen, Alex Choy, Irene Hort, Suzanne Kim and Ira Yeung

Primary Characters

Holden nonchalantly smoking a cigarette, looking hot in his hunting hat.
Holden nonchalantly smoking a cigarette, looking hot in his hunting hat.
Holden Caulfield-
  • Appearance: Holden Caulfield is a tall and slightly lanky boy in his teens (17 currently and 16 at the time the events of the books took place.) He is a heavy smoker and drinker which may imply that his voice is somewhat raspy.Holden is also set apart by his gray-colored hair, which he uses to his advantage as most as he can. (i.e. Passing off as an adult at bars in order to buy beer.) He comes from a generally well off family so it's safe to assume that he dresses well. Holden also carries around his favorite hunting hat which he sometimes pulls the peak of his hunting hat around to the front and down in front of his eyes. when he feels like "horsing around."
  • Personality: A habitual liar, Holden is the main protagonist and cynical narrator of The Catcher in the Rye. Constantly critical of those around him, Holden is disillusioned by the hypocrisy, superficiality and the "phoniness" of those around him. He is quick to incessantly point out the flaws of all those around him. However, it can be argued that much of the story is just exaggerations on Holden's part. Holden is struggling from grief and depression after the death of his beloved brother, Allie Caulfield. Holden is someone who craves for companionship of other people but always seems to fall short of getting it. As a student he was expelled from Pencey Prep (failing four out of five school subjects, and passing only English.) Holden was also expelled from several other schools, including Whooton School and Elkton Hills. At least at Pencey Prep Holden was the captain of the fencing team, but he forget all the team's foils and equipment on a train to a competition so his teammates were very angry with him. He has trouble relating to his "friends" at Pencey Prep as they are all "phonies" in one way or another. For example, his relationship with his roommate Stradlater is very odd. Holden doesn't neccessarily like Stradlater and hates how he considers girls easy yet he goes out of his way to listen to his stories and get his attention. In this Holden shows a great deal of loneliness. He is unable to find anyone he really truly likes except for his siblings.

Relationships with Family Members:

Allie Caulfield- Holden's younger brother, and one of few select characters who he does not point out flaws with. Allie died at when he was just eleven years old of leukemia, and this disturbs Holden. Holden strongly believes that Allie was not only the smartest person in the Caulfield family, but also the nicest. When he died, Holden punched the glass out of every window in the garage of their summer home, thus causing his parents to have Holden psycho-analyzed. This instant is one of the few in which Holden actually acts like a real, emotional human being. Allie was very red headed, and though many people suspected that red hair means anger, he never got mad. He was extremely intelligent, and played baseball. Being a lefty, he had a nice left-handed fielder's mitt, but he wrote his favorite poems on it in green ink, so that he would have something to read when nobody was up at bat. This glove of Allie's holds much sentimental value for Holden, to the point where he carries it with him, with his belongings.

Allie's Death- The death of his brother Allie played a major role in determining who Holden grew up to be. He misses Allie terribly, and never points out his flaws. When writing the descriptive essay for Stradlater, Holden chose to describe his brother's mitt. Likewise, when asked by Phoebe what he liked, he automatically answered Allie. Multiple times throughout the story Allie is referred to in a sort of flashback, and these are what Holden sees as the "good times." The Catcher in the Rye is a saga of Holden getting over the death of his brother, and finally maturing into a happier person. In the very end of the story Holden states, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

Phoebe Josephine Caulfield- Holden's ten year old sister. She dislikes her middle name, so she often changes it to more sophisticated names, such as Weatherfield. Phoebe has bright red hair and is very intelligent, leading in her school play. Holden takes care to encourage Phoebe to stay as a child, and to remain innocent, and he is moved to tears when she gives him her Christmas money. The story also hints that Phoebe is slightly spoiled by her parents, and does not know the value of a dollar. After Allie's death Phoebe tried to forget and move on with her life.

D.B. Caulfield- Holden's older brother, and a successful Hollywood author. D.B. is Holden's favorite author, and wrote a set of short stories titled The Secret Goldfish which Holden liked very much, plus several movies and and is currently writing a movie about Annapolis. He also owns a Jaguar, and left home when Allie died.

Holden's Mother and Father- Although they are never named, and Holden does not converse with them over the course of the story, his parents are very important. Holden is wandering New York City for as long as possible in order to avoid them, because they will not be pleased that he has flunked out of yet another boarding school. After the death of their third son, Allie, Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield have been under a lot of stress. The father, a lawyer, gets easily frustrated, while the mother gets sick often.

Secondary Characters

Jane Gallagher- Holden's childhood sweetheart. Jane is one of the few characters in which Holden has not attempted to find fault with. Her parent's are divorced, and she lives with her mother in Maine. Jane's mother married a "booze hound" named Mr. Cudahy, and it appears that he abuses both her and her mother. During the summer, when Holden visited his summer home located in Maine, the pair was fated to meet when the Gallagher family doberman finished it's "business" on Holden's lawn. The ensuing argument between Jane and Holden's mothers lead to a fateful meeting. They soon became fast friends. Holden and Jane very much enjoyed the game of checkers. However, Jane had a tendency of leaving her kings in the back row. According to Holden, Jane expressed a stated, "I like the way they look in the back row." The relationship between Holden and Jane never progressed much more past him kissing away her tears when Mr. Cudahy yelled at her. She later dated Ward Stradlater, Holden's roommate at Pencey Prep, after she lost contact with Holden, not realizing that he went to the same school.

Sally Hayes- A teenage girl who dated Holden when he lived in New York City with his parents, and invited him to decorate her Christmas tree with her. She is very interested in theater and literature, which leads many people to believe that she is very smart. However, Holden claims that Sally is stupid and immature when you really get to know her. One of the reasons that Holden does like Sally is for her looks. He claims she is so pretty at one point that any man would have wanted to date her. Sally does flaunt her good looks when she and Holden go ice skating at Radio City by wearing a very tight skating skirt. At some point Holden gravely insults her, and she leaves in a huff. It is later revealed that Sally lives with her grandmother, and possibly her parents as well.

Mr. Antolini- He was Holden's English teacher at Elkins High School. Antolini he has a very strong relationship with Holden. They seem to be too close for comfort, however it is most likely that Antolini sees Holden as a son. Though he drinks a little to much, Mr. Antolini acts like an adviser and a for Holden, and he reminds him of D.B.

Mrs. Lillian Antolini- She is Mr. Antolini's wife. According to Holden she is an intellectual. She is friendly with Holden, willing to house him for a few days until he goes to see his parents. Holden, Mr. Antolini and Mrs. Antolini used to play tennis at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Long Island.

Maurice- He is the elevator operator who offered Holden a prostitute. Maurice originally asked Holden for five dollars 'a throw' and fifteen dollars for the entire night, to which Holden agrees. After Holden dismisses the prostitute, Sunny, without doing anything and pays her five dollars Maurice comes to Holden's room to collect ten more dollars, trying to cheat Holden. Holden refuses, and Maurice beats him up before collecting the money.

Sunny- The prostitute that Holden had ordered from Maurice, leading up to Holden admitting that he is a virgin. He asked her to have a chat rather than "acts", please use your imagination. Holden tried to act sexy for her, however he ends up chickening out and letting Sunny leave with five dollars. Sunny is one of the first major incidents of Holden recoiling from touch.

Ward Stradlater- He's Holden's roommate when Holden attended Prencey Prep. He was a popular guy that was athletic and attractive. According to Holden, he was conceited and a 'sonuvabitch'. Perhaps Holden was jealous of what Stradlater had: girls, money, popularity, and Jane.

Robert Ackley- A senior living in the dormitory connected to Holdens' by a bathroom and separated only by curtains. Ackley has attended Pencey Prep since freshman year, but he has no friends and everyone calls him by his surname. His face is covered with acne, but he still and feels superiority towards younger students such as Holden. Whenever Ackley barges into Holden's room, which occurs very often, Holden pretends not to notice him, though Ackley talks constantly and moves personal objects around the room. Ackley takes extreme offense when Holden calls him "Ackley Kid," much akin to a superiority complex.

James Castle- A young man at Elkton Hills, he made a rude remark to a bully, Phil Stabile, who decided to beat him up. Rather than face the beating, Castle locked himself in his room. When the bullies were breaking down the door, he jumped out the window. The fall killed him, and his body lay there on the ground until Mr. Antolini took it to the infirmary. For some reason, Holden thinks of him when Phoebe asks what he liked.

Mr. Spencer- Holden's history teacher at Pencey Prep, one of the courses which Holden failed. He has the grippe and spends all of his screen time advising Holden, who visits Spencer on his sick bed, wearing a bathrobe and little else. He is one of the few characters who knows that Holden was expelled from Pencey Prep, and worries about him very often, advising Holden to get his act together.

Mrs. Spencer- A nearly deaf, seventy-year old woman married to Old Mr. Spencer. She is very grandmotherly, and, like her husband, is aware that Holden was expelled from Pencey Prep.

Earnest Morrow's Mother- A woman who Holden meets on the train to Penn Station. Although she is at least middle-aged Holden is attracted to her, and believes she is not as big a phony as the rest of the world. Her son is Earnest Morrow, a schoolmate of Holden's, and she is immensely proud and interested when Holden lies and tells her that Earnest is a modest young man who refused when the student body wished to elect him to be class president. Holden never reveals his real name to her, merely referring to himself as Rudolf Shmidt.

Earnest Morrow- A briefly mentioned Pencey Prep student who apparently enjoys snapping towels at the other boys of his dormitory. Holden is attracted to Earnest's mother, and lies about what a shy, modest young man Morrow is in order to evoke feelings of "motherly pride".

Carl Luce- An intellectual student adviser at Whooton School, who apparently has an extremely active sex life. When Holden invites Luce out to dinner, a declines but accepts a late drink instead. The actual meeting is awkward, and includes Holden asking inappropriate questions and prying into Luce's love life. It is learned that Luce is actually dating a Chinese woman, because he admires the Chinese philosophy on sex.

Carl Luce's Girlfriend- A Chinese sculptress in her late thirties who lives in the Village. She came from Shanghai, China.

The Nuns- Two nuns who sat down next to Holden at a diner while waiting for their train to arrive. The pair own inexpensive suitcases, one of Holden's unique ticks, but he helps them carry the bags anyway. Holden donated ten dollars to a the next fundraiser that they hold, to which both are grateful. The nuns are school teachers from Chicago who arrived in New York City to teach at a convent, and when Phoebe later asks Holden what he likes, he thinks of the nuns.

Phil Stabile- A very nasty young man at Elkton Hills. He and six other boys frightened James Castle enough to get him to commit suicide by diving out of his dormitory window, just for saying that Stabile was conceited. Stabile and the other boys were expelled from the school after the incident.

Dr. Thurmer- The headmaster of Pencey Prep, and father of Selma Thurmer. He is, like many, a phony.

Selma Thurmer- The nice daughter of Dr. Thurmer. Holden states that she has a large nose, short nails, and "falsies." He does like that Selma sees the fault in her father, and does not protect him completely by saying only how wonderful he is.

Mr. Haas- The supposedly "phony" headmaster of Elkton Hills, ten times worse than that of Mr. Thurmer according to Holden. Caulfield holds a grudge against him because on Sundays Haas had a habit of would greeting the students' visiting parents, shake their hands, and giving them an incredibly "phony" smile.

Rudolf Shmidt- The janitor of Pencey Prep, he is married to Mrs. Shmidt. Holden Caulfield assumes Shmidt's identity for one night in order to lie to the mother of Earnest Morrow. Holden encounter's Earnest Morrow's mother upon his leaving of Pencey Prep, on a subway.

Mrs. Shmidt- The wife of Rudolf Shmidt, the janitor.

Dick Slagle- A roommate of Holden's at at Elkton Hills for two months who owned very inexpensive suitcases, causing Holden to become aggravated and awkward. Slagle hid his own suitcases under his bed whenever Holden's were out so no one see them standing next to Holden. However, when Holden moved his own suitcases underneath his own bed Slagle put his out again because he wanted people to believe that Holden's luggage was his. Holden states that he misses Slagle after they part ways.

Harris Macklin- Holden's roommate for two months at Elkton Hills. He is a very intelligent person, but he is a boring guy in Holden's view. He has a very raspy voice and he never stops talking. Holden likes one thing about him, which is that he's a good classical and jazz whistler.

Valencia- A waitress and singer working at Wicker Bar on 54th. She was not very good at singing, but she chose decent songs, according to Holden.

Janine and Tina- Two French women who used to work at the Wicker Bar in the Seton Hotel when Holden lived in New York City. Janine is a singer, while Tina is a pianist.

Lillian Simmons- A girl who used to date D.B., who liked the fact that she had large breasts. During the story she is dating a navy officer who Holden believes is named Commander Blop.

Commander Blop- Though possibly not really named Blop, that is what Holden heard when he was introduced. Blop is dating Lillian Simmons, and Holden thinks he is too much of a tough guy. Apparently he has a bone-crushing handshake.

Alice Holmborg- Phoebe's best friend and classmate. Alice's mother took Alice and Phoebe to Lister Foundation to watch a movie, The Doctor.

Charlene- Alice Holmborg's mother who took Alice and Phoebe to Lister Foundation to watch the movie, The Doctor. She breathes all over the food and everything, which irritated Phoebe.

Curtis Weintraub- A boy in Phoebe's class tends to follow Phoebe around. She thinks he may have a crush on her, but she does not want him to have feelings for her and definitely does not return his feelings. In an attempt to make Curtis accept that Phoebe dislikes him she and Selma Atterbury poured ink on his coat. Angry, Curtis pushed Phoebe down the stairs and gave her a large bruise.

Selma Atterbury- Phoebe's classmate and partner in crime who poured ink all over Curtis Weintraub's windbreaker.

Ossenburger- A man who attended Pencey Prep some time ago, but became rich owning a series of funeral parlors. After donating large sums of money to the school the Ossenburger Memorial Wing was named for him. Ossenburger visited Pencey for the first football game of the season and gave a lengthy speech in the chapel during morning prayer.

Hazel Weatherfield- The main character in Phoebe's stories. She is almost always a girl detective.

Ms. Aigletinger- Holden's elementary school teacher who would take his class to the Museum of Natural History on Saturdays. She was very kind to her students, and never got angry or frustrated with them.

Gertrude Levine- A little girl who was Holden's partner when he would visit the Museum of Natural History as a child.

Ms. Callon- Phoebe's teacher.

Herb Gale- Robert Ackley's roommate at Pencey Prep.

Edgar Marsalla- A Pencey Prep student who farted very loudly during the speech given by Ossenburger.

Robert Tichener- A friendly student at Pencey Prep who played football with Holden and some other boys. Holden actually calls him "nice," not much, but for Holden that is saying a lot.

Paul Campbell- A friend of Holden's at Pencey Prep who played football with Holden.

Howie Coyle- A talented basketball player at Pencey Prep.

Mr. Zambesi- A biology teacher at Pencey Prep.

Pete- The regular night elevator boy who works in Holden's apartment building.

The Dicksteins- A family owning another apartment on the same floor as the Caulfield's.

Mr. Vinson- The Oral Expression teacher at Pencey who failed Holden in his class. He believed that there should be unification and simplification in the students' speeches.

Richard Kinsella- A very nervous student at Pencey Prep who attended Oral Expression with Holden. Kinsella failed the class because he always digressed while making his speech. He would begin talking about a farm that his father bought in Vermont, but then he would trail off about a letter his mother recieved from his uncle, not even bothering to discuss about the kinds of animals and vegetables were raised on the farm.

Richard Kinsella's Uncle- He became ill with polio and at age forty-two but would never allow anyone to visit him at the hospital to see he needed to wear a brace.

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