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?
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?
In this novel, the chapters tend to end with a general reflection on some aspect of life by the narrator, Holden. For instance, chapter 12 concludes with the glum observation: People are always ruining things for you. Chapter 15 ends with a similarly sweeping and downbeat remark about money: Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.
In both these quotes it can be seen that Holden uses the second person form of narration. Holden in this way directly addresses the reader and indeed seems to assume that the reader shares all his generally negative experiences and ideas about life.
These chapter endings help to set the reflective, conversational, and indeed confessional tone of the book. Holden openly invites the reader to share all his thoughts, feelings, doubts and perplexities throughout. At the very end of the novel he is still doing this as he admonishes his audience to never ‘tell anybody anything. If you do, you end up missing everybody’ (chapter 26).
Holden has told us everything, and yet warns us off from doing the same. He leaves us with a lasting impression of a character rich in contradictions, alienated from other people and yet always reaching out to them in one form or another – and nowhere more so than in the intimate sense of connection which he attempts to forge with his readers.