Places: The Catcher in the Rye

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1951

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Late 1940’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New York City

*New Catcher in the Rye, TheYork City. Primary setting for most of Salinger’s writings. Salinger knew the city well; while he grants New York the “big-city” aura for which it is famous, he also paints a picture of the city’s darker side. Instead of having Holden attend fancy cocktail parties, Salinger has him staying at the seedy Edmont Hotel and sleeping in Grand Central Station. According to Salinger, New York is a place that brings out the worst in people.

*Upper East Side

*Upper East Side. Manhattan neighborhood in which Holden’s family lives. While his parents are away, he visits with his sister Phoebe in the family apartment. For Holden, Phoebe is the only person who is not a phony, and Salinger paints a portrait of her as pure innocence. Everything in her room is neat and orderly, including her schoolbooks. The whole apartment suggests normalcy and structure, the two things Holden needs more than anything else.

Edmont Hotel

Edmont Hotel. Rundown hotel in which Holden stays. The building represents the uglier side of New York City, and its ugliness is reinforced in a scene involving a prostitute named Sunny and one in which Holden makes unsuccessful sexual advances toward two women at a nightclub.

*Rockefeller Center

*Rockefeller Center. New York City landmark with a public ice skating rink to which Holden takes Sally Hayes on a date. While ice-skating should be a happy endeavor, Holden cannot get over the feeling that there are phonies all around them. Holden’s feelings are so overwhelming that they begin to spill over into his relationships with others, including Sally.

Pencey Prep

Pencey Prep. Residential military school in Agerstown, Pennsylvania, that Holden attends. Salinger based the school on Valley Forge Military Academy, his old military school in Pennsylvania. Although these students are in military school, Salinger shows them to be like other children; for example, Ackley’s room is as much a mess as Ackley himself. Nevertheless, Holden is impelled to rebel against the school’s attempts at military discipline.


Taxicabs. On his way to the Edmont Hotel, Holden asks the cabdriver what happens to the ducks in the wintertime. On his way to Ernie’s nightclub, he asks another cabdriver the same question. This suggests that, like the ducks, Holden feels the urge to leave in the wintertime but does not know where to go for safety and shelter.

*Museum of Natural History

*Museum of Natural History. New York science museum that Holden visits while searching for Phoebe. There he experiences one of the few places in which he feels truly happy. What he finds there are walls covered with graffiti; no matter how desperately he wishes to hold on to the innocence of childhood, the sight of the graffiti reminds him that he cannot.

Sutton Place

Sutton Place. Home of Mr. Antolini, a former teacher, that Holden tries to crash after leaving his parent’s apartment. Even here he sees the dark side of life, as he interprets Antolini’s behavior as a sexual advance. Even here in the home of a trusted friend, he finds no escape from the predators of the world. He flees to Grand Central Station, convinced that he is the only person who understands what the world is really like.

Wicker Bar

Wicker Bar. Posh setting in which Holden meets one of his former schoolmates, Carl Luce, to discuss Eastern philosophy. Holden tries to behave like one of the phonies he despises and eventually finds himself drinking alone, disgusted with himself for his posturing. The bar and the people in it are posh and well-to-do, something Holden is not, and his attempt to fit in fails.

*Central Park

*Central Park. Large public park in central Manhattan in which Holden wanders around, looking for Phoebe, before meeting Luce. The children playing happily at the park are, for Holden, a picture of innocence.


*California. The novel is framed by a narrative that begins and ends with Holden speaking to a psychiatrist somewhere in California. Before leaving New York, Holden says good-bye to his sister, telling her that he plans to head westward.

BibliographyBloom, Harold, ed. Holden Caulfield. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.Grunwald, Henry Anatole, ed. Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait. New York: Har-per & Row, 1962. Contains two important articles on The Catcher in the Rye. One deals with Holden Caulfield as an heir of Huck Finn; the other is a study of the novel’s language.Laser, Marvin, and Norman Fruman, eds. Studies in J. D. Salinger: Reviews, Essays, and Critiques of “The Catcher in the Rye” and Other Fiction. New York: Odyssey Press, 1963. Includes an intriguing essay by a German, Hans Bungert, another by a Russian writer, and one of the best structural interpretations of the novel, by Carl F. Strauch.Marsden, Malcolm M., ed. If You Really Want to Know: A “Catcher” Casebook. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1963. Contains reviews of the original publication of the novel. Examines Holden from opposing points of view, as “saint or psychotic.”Pinsker, Sanford. “The Catcher in the Rye”: Innocence Under Pressure. Boston: Twayne, 1993. A sustained study of the novel. Contains a helpful section on the body of critical literature on the novel.Salzberg, Joel, ed. Critical Essays on Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990.Salzman, Jack, ed. New Essays on “The Catcher in the Rye.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Provides an unusual sociological reading of the novel as well as an essay that firmly places the novel in American literary history.Steinle, Pamela Hunt. “The Catcher in the Rye” Censorship Controversies and Postwar American Character. A study of the impact of the novel on its release during a nervous period in American social history.
Categories: Places