The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger opens with Holden Caulfield talking about some events that happened to him around last year’s Christmas, before he was sent to an institution in California to rest after his health deteriorated. Holden focuses on his older brother, D. B., who has abandoned a writing career for Hollywood, where he writes screenplays.
Holden then describes his school, Pencey Prep, as a place filled with fake people. He claims that he has been expelled because he failed all subjects except English. As he overlooks the football game between his school and Saxon Hall, Holden recalls forfeiting the fencing team’s match by losing the equipment on the subway. He then decides to say a proper goodbye to Mr. Spencer, his history teacher, who currently has the flu. Holden runs to Mr. Spencer’s house and arrives out of breath because of his heavy smoking. Mr. Spencer’s wife lets him in and Holden goes to see his teacher.
Holden is rather disgusted by his teacher’s illness and vulnerability but still acts politely around him. Mr. Spencer expresses his disappointment in Holden’s poor academic results and admits that he failed him in history. Mr. Spencer also forces Holden to listen to him read his disappointing history essay and insists that Holden think about his future. He tells him that life is a game and that Holden must learn to play by the rules.
Holden recalls that he did not pay attention to his history essay because he was concerned with the fate of the ducks in the Central Park lagoon, who disappear during wintertime. Holden pretends that he is concerned about his future and, not wanting to be given a lecture, excuses himself and leaves.
Back in his dorm, Holden starts reading and wears the new red h...