Meet Holden Caulfield. He's got a lot of attitude and lot of dated profanity, and he wants to tell us all about "this madman stuff" that happened to him "around last Christmas." His story begins on a December Saturday at Pencey Prep School in Pennsylvania, where he's just been given the ax (read: kicked out) for failing all his classes except English. Turns out, getting the ax is a recurring theme in Holden's past.
Back in the dorm, Holden goofs around with Robert Ackley, a pimply and annoying kid. We're introduced to Holden's distinctive red hunting hat, and we meet his roommate, Stradlater, who is a "**** *******" getting ready for a date with Jane Gallagher, an old friend (and sort-of romantic interest) of Holden's. Holden is none too happy about this impending date, but agrees anyway to write an English composition for the "moron" Stradlater.
Holden writes about his younger brother Allie, who died three years earlier of leukemia. More specifically, the composition is about Allie's left-handed baseball mitt, which had poems written all over it in green ink (so that Allie would have something to read while out in the field). Holden reveals that on the night Allie died, Holden broke all the windows in the garage with his bare hand. As a result, he still can't make a good fist with his hand.
Stradlater comes back and Holden tries to figure out if anything happened (in the sex sense of "anything") with Jane. Stradlater is evasive, so Holden tackles him and gets the worse end of the scuffle (a bloody nose). He tries to chat with Ackley for company, but ends up so fed up with everyone and everything that he decides to leave Pencey, right then and there. But first, he has to bum around New York for a few days before going home (otherwise his parents will know he's gotten the ax).
In New York, he gets a pretty swank hotel room and then tries to get lucky. And fails. Not to mention that he can't score booze, because he's a minor. Instead, he reminisces about Jane. It's all very innocent: golf, checkers, movies, holding hands, without much **** stuff.
He then heads off to "Ernie's," where he knows he can drink, but has to leave to avoid an old and annoying acquaintance. Back in his own hotel, he somehow ends up with…