Holden's Expulsion: The novel opens with Holden being expelled from Pencey Prep for failing most of his classes.
He's already been kicked out of three other schools, and his lack of academic motivation stems from a deeper discontent with the "phoniness" he sees around him.
Wandering New York: Instead of going home, Holden wanders around New York City, staying in cheap hotels and trying to connect with people.
He meets old friends, dates a girl named Sally Hayes, and even calls up his former English teacher, Mr. Antolini.
Search for Meaning: Throughout his journey, Holden searches for meaning and authenticity in a world he perceives as fake and superficial
He criticizes everyone and everything, from his classmates to movie stars, for their lack of genuineness.
Loss and Grief: Holden's cynicism masks a deep sadness and grief.
He's still mourning the death of his younger brother, Allie, and he struggles to come to terms with his own mortality.
Breakdown and Hope: As the story progresses, Holden's emotional state deteriorates. He experiences a breakdown and ends up in a mental health facility.
However, there's a glimmer of hope at the end as he interacts with his younger sister, Phoebe. He expresses a desire to protect her innocence and prevent her from falling into the same disillusionment he feels.