This map plots the settings and references in The Catcher In The Rye
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Although The Catcher in the Rye begins in the fictional town of Agerstown, Pennsylvania, at the equally fictional Pencey Prep, most of the book takes place in 1940s post-war New York City, where Holden goes "to rest" in a hotel before returning home, and ends up wandering around midtown for three days.
The affluent Manhattan he encounters reflects the post-war scene, with New York the unquestionable center of finance and trade (many of the great European cities were in ruins). At night, the city's music clubs and bars are packed with people: New Yorkers, visitors, college kids, and returned soldiers and sailors.
By day, Holden takes us to some of city's most famous landmarks. Grand Central Station (properly called Grand Central Terminal, as train lines end there) is the largest train station in the world (by number of platforms: 67). Although slated for "improvement" (i.e. destruction) in the 1960s, Grand Central was saved and has recently been renovated into a hub for fine dining and expensive shopping (in addition to its railway duties).
Broadway in the theater district, where Holden walks before meeting Sally for their date at the Biltmore's Sunday matinee, is perhaps the most famous part of town, and the image most people have of New York. For many years it hosted an incongruous mix of tourists seeing shows and somewhat less cultural visitors purchasing the services of prostitutes. The theater district was recently "cleaned up," and it now boasts a Disney Store and a pedestrian plaza in the center of the street where New Yorkers drink coffee and read the paper.
Rockefeller Center, where Holden and Sally go to skate (very badly), is a 14-building city-within-a-city, envisioned and built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. as a business, cultural and artistic hub. Rockefeller Center is especially popular at Christmas time, when the famous tree is lit and skaters grace (or not) the outdoor ice rink.
Holden also spends a lot of time thinking about, and walking around in, Central Park. The park occupies more than a square mile in the center of Manhattan, and is a major attraction for both New Yorkers--who walk, run, rollerblade, ice-skate, picnic, play softball, eat, sail radio-controlled boats, meet, row on the reservoir, go the to zoo and generally hang out--and visitors, who might add to the above list a ride in a horse-drawn carriage.
The park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and the architect Calvert Vaux. It opened in 1859 and was completed in 1873.
Other novels set in New York City include:
The Central Park Lagoon (or pond) is a key feature of the park, intended as a quiet, welcoming place for those entering from the southeast corner. Holden returns to the problem of the ducks throughout the book.
Here's the lagoon in the summer (looking north). No ducks in sight, however.
And looking south... still no ducks.
Pennsylvania Station is one of New York City's main rail hubs, linking Amtrak, Long Island Rail, New Jersey's PATH train and the New York City Subway in a grotty, steaming hellhole of a building that houses numerous fast food outlets and also served for many years as unofficial homeless shelter. When the red line subway stops there and the doors open (34th Street Station), the smell is overwhelmingly of donuts.
Some people are calling for a new station.
Greenwich Village is lower Manhattan's artsy, bohemian neighborhood, especially popular with the Beatniks in the 1950s (Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, etc.) and folk singing hippies in the 1960s (Joan Baez, Bob Dylan). Check out its many fine alleys.
Less bohemian now, but still buzzing, Greenwich Village is home to many excellent restaurants, music clubs, art galleries and sex shops.
For an idea of the 1960s vibe, listen to The Roches talk about Folk City, the legendary Greenwich Village music club, and sing their song Face Down at Folk City.
New York City's much tonier rail hub, transformed in a recent restoration into an upscale dining and shopping center. In Holden's time it hadn't yet begun its decline.
Holden describes the Great Canoe in the Indian room, which had 17 life-size figures of Native Americans, including a "witch doctor" at the rear of the canoe.
The canoe has since been refurbished, and hangs in the 77th Street lobby. The figures have been moved to storage.
Sally wants to see how she'll look in a skating skirt. Pretty damn cute.