Chapter 1: Holden Caulfield is a 16 year old boy who attends Pencey Prep. School. He has just been expelled from the school. Earlier that day, he forgot the foils in the subway on the way to a fencing meet. Holden stands on top of a hill watching a football game then runs to his teacher's house.
Chapter 2: Mrs. Spencer greets him at the door and shows him where Mr. Spencer is. Mr. Spencer tries to give Holden a life lesson but Holden ignores him. He tries to make him feel bad about failing by making him read his history essay out loud. Mr. Spencer asks Holden about his future then Holden makes an excuse to leave his house.
Chapter3: Holden returns to his room and puts on his new red hunting hat. He starts to read a book but is interrupted by his next door neighbor, Ackley, who barges into his room and starts touching Holden's personal items. He starts asking annoying questions and clips his fingernails on the floor. Stradlater, Holden's roommate, enters the room and Ackley leaves. Stradlater has a date.
Chapter4: goes to the bathroom to shave And Holden follows him in. He finds out that Stradlater is going on a date with Jane Gallagher, a girl that Holden knew during his childhood. Stradlater asks Holden to write a composition for him and asks to borrow his hound's-tooth jacket.
Chapter5: Holden gets into a snowball fight. He asks Mal Brossard and Ackley if they want to go see a move. They take a bus into Agerstown. They end up going to eat burgers because the guys already saw the movie. When they return, Ackley goes into Holden's room and starts making up stories. Holden kicks him out so he can write the composition. It is supposed to be about a room but Holden writes about his dead brother, Allie's, baseball glove that has poems written on it. Allie died of leukemia a few years ago and broke all the windows in the garage.
Chapter 6: Stradlater comes home from his date and is mad at Holden because he did no t write about the right subject. Holden rips it up then starts smoking. He asks him how his date was. He didn't so Holden tried to attack him but he got pinned to the floor. He keeps calling Stradlater a moron so he punches Holden in the face. He gets a bloody nose and goes to Ackley's room.
Chapter 7: Holden wakes up Ackley and asks if he can sleep in his roommates' bed. Ackley just goes back to sleep. Holden can't fall asleep so he wakes up Ackley and asks him if he can become a catholic monk. Ackley is tired and needs to wake up early to go to church so he ignores him. Holden goes to get his luggages and his hunting hat and leaves Pencey.
Chapter 8: Holden walks to the train station. he catches a train to New York. On the way, he meets the mother of a boy that goes to Pencey. He starts making up things about the woman's son. He makes up a fake name and says he is going home early because he needs an operation.
Chapter 9: Holden gets off the train and wants to call someone but doesn't. He takes a cab to the Edmont Hotel. He asks the driver about the ducks in central park but the driver doesn't want to talk about them. At the hotel he calls a girl that a guy he knows knew. She can't meet him at the moment so he hangs up.
Chapter 10: Holden wants to call his sister but doesn't. She likes writing books. He goes to the night club in the hotel. The waiter won't bring any alcohol even though he is tall and has gray hair. Holden sits at a table with three girls and dances with them. They are not interested in Holden and are looking for movie stars. Holden tells them that he saw one and they run off.
Chapter 11: Holden returns to his room and remembers his childhood friend Jane. He remembers her dog that did its business on his lawn and when her stepfather asked her for cigarettes and she refused to give him. Then she started to cry and Holden kissed her. Holden goes down and takes a bother cab.
Chapter 12: Holden takes the cab to Ernie's night club. He asks the cab driver about the ducks and he gets mad. He listens to Ernie play the piano and orders a scotch and soda. He meets one of D.B.'s friends and then leaves.
Chapter 13: Holden walks back to the hotel. The elevator operator, Maurice, asks him if he wanted a prostitute sent to his room. Holden said yes and a few minutes later the prostitute Sunny came. She tries to seduce Holden but Holden loses interest in her. He pays her the money Maurice told him to pay but she said it wasn't enough. She leaves.
Chapter 14: Holden goes to sleep thinking about Allie. There is a knock at the door. It is Maurice. He wants the $5 Holden owes Sunny. Maurice holds Holden while Sunny takes the money from his wallet. Maurice punches him in the stomach and leaves. Holden imagines he's in a movie and he gets revenge on Maurice. Holden gets into bed and goes to sleep.
Chapter 15: Holden calls a girl named Sally Hayes and asks her if she wanted to go see a movie with her. She accepts. Holden goes to Grand Central Station and leaves his bags there. He goes to eat lunch and meets a couple of nuns who are going to a school to work as teachers. He gives them $10 for charity.
Chapter 16: Holden goes to buy a record for his sister Phoebe called "Little Shirley Beans.". He gets tickets for a play which stars the Lunts. He sees a kid singing, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye.". He gets the courage to call Jane but her mom answers so he hangs up. He goes to the park to see if Phoebe is there so he could give her the record. He meets a girl that says she is at the Museum of Natural History. Then she remembers it was the day before but Holden still goes. He notices that every time he goes to the museum, he changes but it doesn't.
Chapter 17: Holden goes to meet Sally but she is late like always. During the show Holden is mad at the actors and calls them phonies because they seem to be too good at what they do. During the intermission Sally goes to talk to a guy from another prep. school. They go ice skating at Radio City. They go inside to eat and Holden goes crazy. He s reams then whispers and talks about phony people. He then asks her if she wants to run away with him but she refuses. He gets angry and calls her a royal pain in the ass. They cries and leaves.
Chapter 18: Holden goes to a drugstore to get some food. He calls Jane but no one answers. He calls an old friend from Whooton Prep. School named Carl Luce. They agree to go get drinks that night. Holden watches a stage show and a movie before going to the Wicker Bar.
Chapter 19: Carl Luce is very smart and goes to Columbia University. Luce used to give the younger students sex talks and Holden starts talking to him about sex. Luce is annoyed that Holden still talks about that stuff. Luce says that Holden should see a psychoanalysts, like his father. Holden asks him if he was psychoanalyzed by his father but he avoids the question. Luce says he has a date and leaves.
Chapter 20: Holden gets really drunk and goes to the bathroom to wash his face. Holden calls Sally and disturbs her grandmother. Then he tries to get a date with a singer at the bar but gets rejected. Finally he tries to get a date with the hat-check girl. Holden walks to the duck pond in Central Park. On the way there he drops the record and it breaks. He gathers the pieces in his pocket. The water in his hair starts to freeze. He's afraid he'll get pneumonia so he decides to walk home. His parents should be asleep and he needed some cash.
Chapter 21: The regular elevator operator is gone so Holden tricked the new guy into thinking he was going to someone else's apartment. Holden sneaks in and looks in his sister's room but she isn't there. He checks his brother D.B.'s room and there she is. He reads through her notebooks and then she wakes up. She is really happy to see him and starts talking about a play she's in and about movies and school. Then she realizes Holden's home early. Holden tells her he was let out early but Phoebe knows he was expelled. Phoebe hides her head in her pillow and says daddy's going to kill you.
Chapter 22: Phoebe finally listens to him and he tells her why he failed his courses and about the phonies. Phoebe asks Holden what he likes but Holden can't think of anything. She then asks him what he wants to do in the future. He remembers the song the boy was singing,"If a body catch a body coming through the rye.". He says he wants to be in a rye field full of kids on the edge of a cliff. He wants to stop them from falling. Phoebe says that it's,"If a body meet a body coming through the rye."
Chapter 23: Holden calls his old English teacher: Mr. Antolini, tells him he got kicked out and asks him if he can come over. He says yes. Holden goes to Phoebes and asks her to dance. While they're dancing, the front door opens. Their parents come in and Holden hides in the closet. His mom comes to D.B.'s room and tells Phoebe to go back to bed. When she leaves Holden tells Phoebe that he plans to move west. Phoebe gives him her Christmas money and Holden gives her red hunting hat and then he leaves for Mr. Antolini's.
Chapter 24: When Holden goes in the apartment, he can tell the Antolini's just had a party. Holden tells Mr. Antolini what he hated about about Pencey. He hated the digressions during the debate class and that getting off topic was interesting. Mr. Antolini challenges Holden and shows him it is better to stay on track. Mrs. Antolini offers them some coffee them goes to bed. Mr. Antolini says that Holden is going to have a fall. A fall that men who cannot cope with their surroundings have. He tells Holden he should try harder in school. They prepare the sofa and they go to bed. Holden wakes up because Mr. Antolini is stroking his head. Holden thinks he's a pervert and leaves.
Chapter 25: Holden sleeps in the waiting room in Grand Central Station. He walks around New York and every time he steps of the sidewalk he asks Allie to let him get to the other side. He decides he's hitch hiking his way west so he goes to Phoebe's school and writes her a letter telling her to meet him at a Museum so he could give her back her money before he left. In her school he sees F*** you's on the wall and gets depressed. At the museum, he shows these two boys where the mummies are and he see another F*** you. Holden passes out but regains consciousness. Phoebe shows up with suitcases and asks Holden if she can go with him. Holden says no and she gets angry and stops talking to him. She gives him back his hunting hat. He takes her to the zoo. She walks on one side of the street and he walks on the other. After they go to the zoo, Holden convinces Phoebe to ride the carousel. Holden watches her with his hat on.
Chapter 26: Holden doesn't want to say what happened during the remainder of that day but says he got sick. He has a psychoanalyst and is supposed to go to a new school. He says he's going to try this time. D.B. comes to see him. He misses everyone from the story he just told.