Whether readers agree with each of the many incisive understandings that the author, David Neilson, makes about this book, even if readers might feel that he missed a point and did not get the full meaning, they will get a much better understanding of “Catcher in the Rye” by reading his analysis. He is comprehensive in his discussion of 35 different aspects of the novel. And what he says prompts readers to form their own ideas.
Among much else, he feels that readers who see the book as simply describing an adolescent's struggle to understand and deal with life are missing many of the symbols in the novel. He sees the book describing J. D. Salinger's opinion about the world, his many social criticisms, and why he, Salinger, secluded himself from the world. Neilson not only examines the three day experiences of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield by looking at each event and each of Holden’s main thoughts and seeing their significance, he also does the same for Holden's brothers and sister, his father and mother, his girlfriends Jane and Sally, as well as the schools he attended and his teachers, and why the novel is set in New York, and why in the winter. He also looks at Holden's ranting style and what it is telling us, his lack of adaptability, and what he is expressing when he calls something phony. Neilson interprets the story as Holden deteriorating into a mental breakdown and, in his opinion, Holden will never fully recover from it; he will always be alienated from society. This interpretation fits in with Neilson’s idea that the novel expresses Salinger's own views and why he secluded himself.
Neilson’s analysis of the depth of meaning in each major thought and every event of the novel will leave us thinking that Salinger's ability to capture so much in this novel and cause us to think about life is the reason this book became such a success. He writes "Holden's grasp for essentials...is the main secret of the book's outstanding success."