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?
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.
Holden Caulfield’s character is, as a narrator as well as a main character, ambiguous. His narrative is disjointed, unreliable, and involves lengthy digressions that seemingly jump from one topic to the next with very few rational links. It is, however, important to remember that J.D. Salinger is an excellent author and that he has created the narrative in this way to emphasise the workings (or lack thereof) of Holden’s mind. What is truly astonishing is that on a closer look at the structure of The Catcher in the Rye we can see that Salinger has, despite the outward appearance, structured the novel in an extremely logical and rational manner. By examining this, you might be able to, more coherently, pull together a novel that often seems overwhelmingly complex and erratic.
The point of any author is to express particular things about the main character. In most novels authors use other characters to highlight and emphasise characteristics of the main character. The Catcher in the Rye is no different, except for the fact that the other characters are more important than usual because the narrator is so unreliable. Holden tells us himself that he is ‘The most terrific liar you ever saw in your life’ (p14), he narrates from a mental institution and his commentary is erratic and overly cynical. For this reason the minor characters in The Catcher in the Rye, are a very important reference point through which the reader can better understand Holden. Focus on Mr Spencer, Maurice and Sunny, Ackley and Stradlater, Sally Hayes, Carl Luce, Phoebe and Mr Antolini.