Holden is very lonely, and his adolescent loneliness seems to run much deeper than the feelings so commonly felt at that age. He admits to his loneliness openly, and it gives him evidence that perhaps he might still have some emotions left. At the same time, Holden takes few steps to mitigate his loneliness. Whenever he feels the urge to meet someone, to call up a girl, to have a social experience, he ends up sabotaging it before he can get hurt. He thus protects himself so fully that he effectively shuts off any possibilities of alleviating his own loneliness. He might want to call Jane, for example, but he hangs up before she gets on the phone. He might want to sleep with a prostitute to feel human comfort, but this will not do. He might want to interact with friends at a bar, but he ends up saying something hurtful so that they abandon him. Pushing them away provides a deeper and deeper loneliness, but at these moments of choice he is willing to endure it rather than eventually face the ultimate, devastating loneliness of losing another person like Allie.
However, not all reception has been positive; the book has had its share of critics. Rohrer writes, "Many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. J. D. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique. That is to say, he has done nothing."  Rohrer assessed the reasons behind both the popularity and criticism of the book, saying that it "captures existential teenage angst" and has a "complex central character" and "accessible conversational style"; while at the same time some readers may dislike the "use of 1940s New York vernacular" and other things.