RE: The Catcher in the Rye help with homework

  1. How important is sex to Holden? Is his messed up attitude toward sex a symptom of his problem, or is it more like a cause?
  2. If Holden is so obsessed with saving children’s innocence, why doesn’t he worry more about his own? What does “innocence” mean for him? To him?
  3. Typically characters grow and develop as the novel progresses. Analyze the transitions that Hold goes through in the novel. Does he change from the beginning to the end? If so, analyze three ways in which Holden changes. If not, analyze how Holden stayed the same throughout the novel
  4. What does the last line of the book mean? What does it indicate has happened or will happen to Holden?
  5.  The whole novel is Holden’s narration of this long story. Who is he telling this story to (besides the reader) and what can we then conclude about Holden’s fate?
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How important is sex to Holden? Is his messed up attitude toward sex a symptom of his problem, or is it more like a cause?

Sexual confusion is another of the consistent themes in The Catcher in the Rye. It is not unusual for any of us to be concerned about sex as adolescents, but Holden is especially so. He has the usual biological yearnings but has mixed feelings about how he should respond to them. Although he is a romantic, he still admits that he is sexually driven. It is to Holden’s credit that he respects what girls say when they ask him to stop making advances, even though he has heard the usual rumors that they don’t always mean it.  On the other hand, Holden is unusually concerned about homosexual males (whom he calls “flits”). He thinks that all homoerotic behavior is “perverty,” lumping it together with bestiality (or at least accept the fact that Carl Luce has this view).

Although Holden is understandably bothered by Mr. Antolini’s odd behavior at the apartment, he might be over-reacting. Salinger is unclear about the former teacher’s motive. Holden and the readers might notice that the teacher pats him on the head, not the genitals. Thinking about major themes can be helpful to the reader. However, as readers of any work of fiction (especially with a novel as complex and richly ambiguous as The Catcher in the Rye) we need to be careful not to try to define or dissect too much. Most interpretations of the novel are debatable. The Catcher in the Rye remains a force in literature precisely because it may mean many things to many different people.

Answered on 22.06.2017.
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