The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Summary of Chunk 1 (Chapters 1 - 2)

The reader is first introduced to Holden Caulfield, the rambling narrator of this autobiography of sorts. In the first chapter we learn little of Holden's background-only that he has an older brother, D.B., who writes for Hollywood. As for the present, Holden, 17 years old, has just been "kicked out" of Pencey Prep in Agerstown, Pennsylvania, for not applying himself in any of his classes. Indeed, he has failed four out of his five classes, the fifth being English. This is the fourth school Holden has attended, though he wasn't necessarily kicked-out of them all.

The main action of the first chunk revolves around Holden's visit to his History teacher, Mr. Spencer, to say good-by (at Mr. Spencer's request). Contrary to our expectations from Holden's records in school and his bleak outlook on life, we find that he treats his teacher cordially, and that there is some mutual respect between them. Mr. Spencer attempts to convince Holden to begin applying himself, but merely uncovers the fact that Holden can't stand school because, as Holden puts it "I was surrounded by phonies." From there, Holden spends the rest of the conversation simply "shooting the bull" in order to ease Mr. Spencer's guilt for failing him.

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