The novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger introduces a large number of characters. Holden Caulfield, the main character, comes across lots of people in the course of the novel, from family, friends, to former and current colleagues. The narrative is told in the first person by Holden so that readers are given a lot of insight into his thoughts and feelings towards his environment.
Another important character in the novel is Phoebe, Holden’s younger sister. Holden only interacts with her towards the end of the novel, but she is mentioned several times in his stories and flashbacks. On the same note, Allie, Holden’s late brother, is an important character whose death has influenced Holden and affected him greatly. D. B., Holden’s older brother, is often mentioned when Holden expresses his disappointment with his career choice. Holden’s parents briefly appear in the novel. However, their absence reveals a lot about Holden’s strained relationship with them.
Other significant characters include some of Holden’s colleagues from Pencey, Ward Stradlater, and Robert Ackley, but also former colleagues from other schools, like Carl Luce. Their interactions with Holden highlight his disgust and disdain for them, as he considers most of his colleagues fake and arrogant.
Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini – Holden’s teachers at Pencey and Elkton Hills – also play an important role because they try to make Holden think about the future and the consequences of his actions. Their opposing approaches, however, influence Holden differently.
The novel also introduces three important female figures in Holden’s life: Sally Hayes – the girl he used to date, Jane Gallagher – the girl Holden likes and respects, and Sunny – the prostitute who, along with her pimp, cheat Holden for money. Holden’s interactions with the girls and women in the novel reveal frustrations and fears related to his sexuality.
Holden’s relationship with many of these characters develops throughout the story, with some relationships ending abruptly and others continuing after Holden’s expulsion from Pencey.