Chapter 1 Notes from The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 1

The novel begins with the voice of the narrator, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield, who's speaking from a rest home, where he is recovering from a nervous breakdown. Holden lets us know right away that what follows is going to be his story, and on his terms.

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." Chapter 1, pg. 1

Holden briefly mentions his older brother, D. B., before launching into the story of the events that led to his hospitalization. His story begins on Thomsen Hill at Pencey Prep, where Holden stands looking down over his school's big football game. Holden has just returned from a fencing meet in New York City, which was a disaster. Holden, the fencing team manager, left all the equipment on the subway and the team never made it to the meet. Furthermore, we find out Holden has been kicked out of Pencey for flunking four subjects. After Holden leaves Pencey for Christmas break, he won't return.

Holden doesn't think much of Pencey, a boys' school full of phonies and crooks, but he's a little bothered about leaving without "feel[ing] some kind of a good-by" (pg. 16). Watching the football game, he finally gets this sensation by remembering a day when he and a couple of Pencey boys were throwing a football. The memory is vivid enough to give Holden some kind of true feeling for the place. As soon as this happens, he's off and running across the road to see his history teacher one last time.

Topic Tracking: Lies and Imagination 1

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