Chapters 1 & 2

Holden Caulfield recounts the story of how he ended up at a rest home to receive therapy. Holden’s story begins with his time at Pencey Prep, where he is forbidden to return due to academic failure. Holden recalls meeting with Mr. Spencer who gives him life advice.

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Chapters 3 & 4

While reading in his room, Holden is interrupted by Ackley, one of his many peers whom he sees as a “phony.” Stradlater enters and tells Holden about his date with Jane Gallagher. Holden has feelings for Jane and is tormented by thoughts of Stradlater and Jane’s date.

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Chapters 5 & 6

After going into town with Ackley and Mal, Holden tries to write a paper for Stradlater, but is distracted by thoughts of his deceased brother Allie. Stradlater, unsatisfied with the paper, gets into a fight with Holden.

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Chapters 7–9

Holden decides to return to New York. On his way to the Edmonton Hotel, Holden asks the cab driver what happens to the ducks in Central Park during the winter, a question that annoys the driver. At the Edmonton, Holden fails to arrange a date with Faith Cavendish.

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Chapters 10–12

Holden thinks of his precocious sister Phoebe before going to the hotel’s club. Holden meets older girls who humor him but are not actually interested in him before he decides to go to another nightclub. After encountering one of his brother D.B.s’ ex-girlfriends, Holden leaves abruptly.

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Chapters 13–15

Back at the Edmonton, Holden takes up Maurice’s offer to meet a prostitute named Sunny. Holden backs out on the meeting and sends Sunny away. The next day Holden sets up a date with Sally Hayes, and then meets a pair of nuns whom he donates money to.

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Chapters 16 & 17

After buying a raunchy blues record for Phoebe, Holden becomes surprisingly happy when he hears an innocent boy singing a song on the street that leads him to calling Jane. Holden attends a show with Sally later that evening. While ice-skating afterward, Holden rants about how everyone is a phony, which irritates Sally to the point that Holden leaves without her.

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Chapters 18–20

Holden leaves the skating rink, has a sandwich, and unsuccessfully calls Jane again. To kill time before meeting with Carl Luce, Holden goes to see a movie about the war, in which he decides that he would rather be killed than be in the military. After Holden’s meeting with Luce goes awry, he goes to Central Park and then decides to go back home and talk to Phoebe.

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Chapters 21–23

Though Phoebe is excited to see Holden, she surmises that he is home early because he was expelled from school. Phoebe corrects Holden on the Robert Burns poem Holden misheard and prods him about his plans for the future. Holden’s former teacher Mr. Antolini invites Holden to stay with him, but before he leaves, Holden leaves Phoebe with his red hunting hat.

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Chapter 24

Mr. Antolini gives Holden advice to set him on the right track. Noticing that Holden is too tired for a life lecture, Mr. Antolini lets him go to sleep. Holden is startled awake by Mr. Antolini touching him in a suggestive way and flees the apartment.

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Chapters 25 & 26

Holden meets Phoebe at the museum but angers her when he denies her request to leave with him. After they reconcile, Holden, overjoyed and wearing his red hunting hat, watches Phoebe ride a carousel. The narrative returns to Holden at the rest home where he declares that he will try to do better in life.

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