The narration starts from the sanatorium in California where Holden Caulfield is undergoing rehabilitation following a nervous breakdown. The main story centers on the events in December of the previous year, but first his older brother is referred to as being a writer who works in Hollywood and visits Holden on a regular basis. He doesn't respect him because he feels that his brother sold himself short for the sake of earning more money. He feels that he is too talented for the type of work that he is doing
Holden’s tale takes the form of a long flashback to a Saturday in December
in the previous year.
It is Holden’s last day at Pencey Prep in Agerstown in Pennsylvania. He has been expelled due to poor academic performance, failing 4 out of 5 subjects. The chapter ends with Holden arriving at Mr. Spencer’s house (his History teacher).
It is clear from the start that Salinger gives us a pure insight into
Holden’s personality and unique narrative style. The reader appreciates from the first paragraphs that Holden will not fit the usual mould of the accepted narrator. Holden is all set to tell us about how
he arrived in the sanatorium, and then he digresses to tell us about his older brother, D.B.
When the flashback does start it is concerned with Holden’s last day at Prep
school, which he found a cold and hypocritical place. A tone of cynicism pervades throughout Holden’s narration. He tends to see the worst in people and places, rather than the best.
Holden is thoughtless and irresponsible, losing the fencing team’s
equipment, but he shows he does care for people by wishing to say goodbye to his ailing History lecturer despite failing miserably at the subject.
The reader has already a strange affection for this much-flawed hero of the book.