The Catcher in the Rye Characters Analysis

"The Catcher in the Rye" Characters

Marissa L.
min read
Jun 7, 2023

The Main Characters in Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield

Holden Caulfield is the protagonist and narrator of the story. Catcher in the Rye is a frame tale, a story within a story. Holden narrates his experiences as one long flashback from a mental institution. Holden starts his story when he’s 16 attending Princely Prep. Though he comes from a wealthy New York family, he refuses to study and has been kicked out of 4 schools. He is smart and creative but refuses to listen to authority and thinks of most people in the world as phony or artificial.

Holden narrates his experiences over 2 days from the time he left Princely Prep to the time he faints in New York City. Holden is tall at 6 feet 2 and a half inches, but he grew 6 and a half inches in just the last year making him gangly and uncoordinated. He smokes a lot and is generally in poor health, avoiding sports and physical exercise.

Emotionally Holden is in a fragile state. His mind switches between angry, depressed, happy, sensitive, stoic, kind, judgemental, and sexually frustrated. Holden wants to be an adult but sees the adult world as phony and fake. He believes in the innocence and beauty of youth and rejects the adult world of social norms and expectations. At the same time, he partakes in adult activities like smoking, drinking, going to clubs, and is obsessed with sex.

Holden’s sexual drive fuels much of the story. Though he is a virgin, he constantly tries to put himself in a situation that might lead to sex but bails at the last moment. He gets upset when his roommate goes on a date with a girl he knows. He flirts with every woman he can. He goes on a date with a girl that he doesn’t like. Yet,  when a prostitute comes to his room and takes her clothes off, he tells her that he just wants to talk.

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Holden has unresolved issues from the death of his younger brother, and though he has failed out of many schools, has never seen a therapist. He thinks about suicide several times through the story and is often in a cynical and pessimistic state of mind. His teenage confusion and anguish as well as belief that society is fake has made him one of the most relatable and influential fictitious characters of the 20th century.

Holden is also kind, generous, sensitive, and caring. We see this in his interactions with his sister Phoebe, who he adores and respects. His love and care for her wellbeing bring him back on track and makes him realize the mistakes he’s making. Holden’s interaction with two nuns also shows his kind side. Not only does he give them a 10 dollar donation and offers to pay for their dinner, he thinks about them often and considers them good people.


Ward Stradlater is Holden’s roommate at Princely Prep. He is tall, athletic, good looking, and popular with the ladies. He asks Holden to write an English composition for him while he goes on a date with an old crush of Holden’s, Jane Gallagher. Holden writes about his dead brother Allie’s baseball glove. When Stradlater criticizes the essay and refuses to tell Holden about the details of the date, the two boys end up in a fistfight that Holden loses. This is one of the events that motivate Holden to leave Princely Prep.


Sunny is a young prostitute that comes to Holden’s room in New York City. Though Holden is interested in sex, he gets very awkward when she removes her clothes and asks her just to talk. She gets angry and demands more money from him which he refuses. She later comes back with Maurice, the elevator man, and they assault him and rob him.

Sally Hayes

Sally Hayes is a girl that Holden has dated a few times in the past. Holden gives the impression that he doesn’t like her very much, but he goes on a date with her in New York City anyway because he is desperate for human interaction. Through the course of the date, Holden finds her increasingly annoying, upset that she liked the play they watched together, and angry that she finds simple things pleasurable. They end their date at an ice skating rink where he upsets her by telling her his warped worldview, but also proposing marriage to her.

Phoebe Caulfield

Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s 10-year-old sister. Despite her youth, she is the only person that Holden seems to trust and whose opinion he values. She is wise beyond her years and has a better grasp of Holden and adulthood than most of the other characters in the book. This makes sense because Holden is essentially in the process of transitioning from being a child into adulthood and he still idealizes children.

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Holden sneaks back into his family house to see Phoebe, and she is the only one who manages to talk some sense to him. She asks him to think about what he wants to do in life and why he’s so cynical. When Holden tells her his plans to move out west, she demands to go with him and this makes him realize how silly his plans are. Despite this, he leaves her a note the next day asking him to meet her. When she arrives with a suitcase he tells her again that she can’t go, but she starts crying and Holden decides to stay in New York City.

Mr. Antolini

Mr. Antolini is one of the only teachers that Holden respects. He taught English at Elkton Heights and was the man who carried James Castle to the infirmary. Holden respects Mr. Antolini for his intelligence as well as for his strength of character. Holden calls him when he’s in New York and Mr.Anotlini immediately offers him a place to stay for the night at his luxurious apartment. Mr. Antolini and his wife had hosted a party earlier that night and he is quite tipsy. He continues to drink and bores an exhausted Holden. When Holden wakes up, he finds Mr. Antolini stroking his head. Holden reacts poorly, making excuses to leave immediately, unsure of what was happening. He later regrets leaving and admits that he may have misread the situation.  

Minor Catcher in the Rye Characters

Allie Caulfield

Allie Caulfield is Holden’s dead younger brother. Holden remembers him as a polite and friendly child and thinks about him often, especially when he’s depressed. Allie died from leukemia when Holden was 13 and that night Holden slept in the garage and broke all the windows with his fist causing him to miss the funeral because he was in the hospital. Holden clearly has some suppressed emotions about the passing of his younger brother.

D.B. Caulfield

D.B.Caulfield is Holden’s older brother. Though he looked up to him when he was younger Holden develops mixed feelings towards him. D.B.fought in World War II and then became a successful short story writer. When he started writing scripts for Hollywood Holden started losing respect for him and started calling him a phony. D.B. is the person who visits Holden the most when he’s recovering at the mental institution.


Ackley is one of the students who live next to Holden at Princely Prep. He has terrible personal hygiene and an annoying personality so he isn’t very well liked by most of the other students. After Holden’s fight with Stradlater, he goes to Ackley’s room, but Ackley frustrates him and that adds to his decision to leave Princely Prep.

Mrs. Caulfield

Mrs. Caulfield is Holden’s mother. She never talks to Holden in the story, but she makes an appearance when he is hiding in Phoebe’s room when Holden sneaks into the house. She seems to be a loving mother and a kind woman, but she is still grieving the death of her youngest child, Allie.

Mr. Caulfield

Mr.Caulfield is Holden’s father. Though we never see him in the story, he appears in Holden’s thoughts a few times. He is a hardworking lawyer and a caring but strict father.

Jane Gallagher

Jane Gallagher is the girl the Ward Stradlater went on a date with the night that Holden leaves Princely Prep. Jane and Holden spent a summer together a few years ago when their families vacationed in the same place and he has very fond memories of her. She’s the only young woman that Holden respects and thinks about calling her several times through the story but never does.


Horwitz is a cab driver that takes Holden from his hotel to a piano bar called Ernie’s. Horwitz is one of the few people that replies to Holden’s question about what happens to the ducks in the pond at central park in the winter when the water freezes. Horwitz is more interested in what happens to the fish in the pond. Holden invites him for a drink at the end of the cab ride but Horwitz declines.

Carl Luce

Carl Luce was Holden’s student mentor at the Whooton School. Three years older than Holden, he used to tell the younger students stories about sex and about his uncanny ability to spot gay people, leading Holden to think that he might secretly be gay himself. Despite calling him a phony the last time he saw him, Holden asks to meet Carl at a bar in New York. The conversation goes poorly with Carl telling Holden to grow up and see a therapist.


Maurice is the elevator attendant at the hotel that Holden stays at in New York. He is also a pimp and is the one who offers to send Sunny the prostitute to Holden’s room. Later, he reappears with sunny to beat up and rob Holden.

Ernest Morrow

Ernest Morrow is a student at Princely Prep that Holden thinks is the biggest bastard in the school.

Mrs. Morrow

Mrs. Morrow is the attractive mother of Ernest Morrow whom Holden meets on the train from Princely Prep to New York.  She recognizes the seal on Holden’s jacket and he lies to her saying that he’s friends with her son and that he’s a great guy. He then flirts with her and invites her for a cocktail which she declines.

Mr. Spencer

Mr. Spencer is the elderly history teacher at Princely Prep. He invites Holden to his house and tells him to play by the rules and get back on track. It’s the first time we see Holden having to confront old age and growing up. Holden is disgusted by Mr. Spencer’s feebleness. The conversation makes Holden ashamed of failing history and adds to his motivation to leave Princely Prep.

Dr. Thurmer

Dr. Thurmer is the headmaster at Princely Prep. He tells Holden that life is a game with rules that you have to follow which Mr. Spencer reiterates. In typical fashion, Holden thing of him as a phony.

Lillian Simmons

Lillian Simmons is one of D.B.’s ex-girlfriends. Holden bumps into her at Ernie’s Piano bar. She comes over to his table with her date, a naval officer. Lillian is bubbly and friendly but Holden finds her fake though attractive. She invites Holden to have a drink with her and her date but Holden declines and leaves the bar to avoid more contact.

Two Nuns

Holden meets two nuns as he eats breakfast on Sunday Morning. He strikes up a conversation with them and talks about Romeo and Juliet. He gives them a 10 dollar donation and offers to pay for their breakfast but they decline. He thinks how unfair it is that nuns don’t get to eat fancy lunches and overall treats them with more respect than most of the adults he comes across. Later, when Phoebe asks him about something he likes, he mentions the two nuns.

Bernice Krebs

Bernice Krebs is one of three women that Holden dances with at the Lavender Room nightclub inside Edmont Hotel. The three women are uninterested in Holden but Bernice is the first one to agree to dance with him. Holden gets annoyed with them because they want to see movie stars in the city. The three leave without paying for any of the drinks and Holden gets stuck with the entire bill.

James Castle

James Castle was a student that Holden knew when he attended Elkton Hills. James committed suicide by jumping out of a window when a group of bullies locked themselves in a room with him. When Phoebe asks Holden to name things he likes, his mind goes to James because of his unwillingness to give in to bullies and his choice to commit suicide.

Faith Cavendish

Faith Cavendish is a burlesque stripper that Holden had heard about because of her sexual promiscuity. He calls her when he first comes to New York. Though she is angry at the late night call, she agrees to meet him the next day, but Holden suddenly changes his mind and tells her he’s busy.

Wrap Up

The Catcher in the Rye, a timeless masterpiece, has had a profound impact on countless individuals. This list of Catcher in the Rye characters provides an overview of all the characters, with a particular emphasis on the main ones. For more detailed information about the book, be sure to check out our concise summary of The Catcher in the Rye, available on

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