RE: The Catcher in the Rye home assignment
- Consider Holden’s ideas about childhood and adulthood. Are childhood and adulthood are as separate as Holden thinks they are? If so, which category would he fit in?
- The Catcher in The Rye is written with a cyclical plot where we do not fully understand Holden’s situation until we reach the end and reevaluate the beginning. In a well-written essay, discuss how Holden reveals himself. Be sure to explain the clues he gives as the story unfolds.
- How does Salinger tend to end chapters? What do these endings have in common? How do they work to set the tone of the novel?
- The Catcher in the Rye centers on a young man—can women relate to this novel, too? What about Holden is gender-specific, and what is common to all teenagers?
Consider Holden’s ideas about childhood and adulthood. Are childhood and adulthood are as
separate as Holden thinks they are? If so, which category would he fit in?
Instead of acknowledging that adulthood scares and mystifies him, Holden invents a fantasy that adulthood is a world of superficiality and hypocrisy (“phoniness”), while childhood is a world of innocence, curiosity, and honesty. Nothing reveals his image of these two worlds better than his fantasy about the catcher in the rye: he imagines childhood as an idyllic field of rye in which children romp and play; adulthood, for the children of this world, is equivalent to death—a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff. His created understandings of childhood and adulthood allow Holden to cut himself off from the world by covering himself with a protective armor of cynicism. But as the book progresses, Holden’s experiences, particularly his encounters with Mr. Antolini and Phoebe, reveal the shallowness of his conceptions.