J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, (Penguin, 1994) p. 191

The two poles of Holden’s transition are his two brothers – Allie and D.B. Allie is the terrific kid whose premature death ensures he will never grow up; who will stay innocent and unspoiled forever. D.B. is the talented author who sold out, whose adult desires lead him to a phony life as a Hollywood screenwriter. Holden is caught between them, the tallest child in the field of rye, trying to catch kids before they plunge over the precipice.

Salzman et al, New Essays on Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

The Catcher in the Rye is, at its core, a narrative about a teenage boy at the beginning of adulthood, coming to terms with the death of a sibling (Holden’s brother, Allie) and his subsequent failure at school . But, mediated through the erratic and emotionally detached narration of its protagonist, this is not the story Holden sets out to tell.

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, (Penguin, 1994), p. 110

The text opens with a clear statement, as clear as Holden can be, that what we are about to read is the story of someone becoming mentally unwell:

Character Analysis | The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield is the first-person protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye and frequently thought of as a classic ‘unreliable narrator’.

Ackley | The Catcher In The Rye: Character Analysis

This is a problematic definition in the case of The Catcher in the Rye as there is evidence in the text that some of Holden’s values seem to match those of the author. What we need is a more nuanced definition and analysis.