"The Catcher in the Rye" was published in 1951. Its setting is around the 1950s and is narrated by Holden Caulfield, a teenage boy who receives treatment within a psychiatric ward. The stories that he narrates are past events that occurred a couple of days before the end of the fall school semester. The narrative and turmoil within the story helps the reader learn more about Caulfield's characteristics.
Holden is extremely judgmental of others -- especially of those who he considers "phony," or those who put on a whole new persona around others. He sneers at the hypocrisy and malice that exists in the adult world and uses mockery to shield himself from all of the disappointment that adulthood brings. Caulfield believes that he is the only decent character among a world of phony adults.
Holden's fixation with phoniness and his inability to understand the way social orders work in society makes him appear naive. He has the ability to identify the phoniness and egocentric behaviors of society, but tends to go into denial. As a result, he has difficulty functioning in a world that is fallible. In addition, Holden believes that society can change without any effort to create positive changes.
Holden's perfectionism makes him uneasy with his own weaknesses. In the novel, he shows meanness, superficiality and falsehood, just like everyone else he relentlessly judges. A couple of times he tries to commit suicide. However, his love for his sister will not allow him to kill himself.
Presumptuous, Childish and Disrespectful
Holden is presumptuous, childish and disrespectful. When he does not get his way, he has temper tantrums. Although, it is against the rules to smoke in dorm rooms, Holden chooses to smoke anyway. He also chooses not to study, which causes him to get expelled due to academic failure. In addition, he pretends that he is blind to annoy his mother for his own amusement.