RE: The Catcher in the Rye home assignment
- Many readers observe that The Catcher in the Rye is a novel about grief. In what ways does Holden exhibit aspects of the grieving process? Does he reach any sort of closure or letting go? How do you know?
- In what ways is The Catcher in the Rye a novel of social protest? What aspects of society does Salinger critique? What alternatives does he offer?
- Holden, like each of us, faces living in a world he did not create. Nobody, not even Holden, can live in a culture without having some of it rub off on them. What faults of his society does Holden exhibit? How does Salinger reveal these faults to readers?
Many readers observe that The Catcher in the Rye is a novel about grief. In what ways does Holden exhibit aspects of the grieving process? Does he reach any sort of closure or letting go? How do you know?
Death is a consistent theme in the novel. It is continually implied by the presence of Holden’s younger brother’s spirit, even though Allie has been dead for about three years. When Holden fears for his own existence, such as when he feels that he might disappear, he speaks to Allie. He is haunted by the thought of Allie in the rainy cemetery surrounded by tombstones and dead people. Holden associates death with the mutability of time. He wishes that everything could just stay the way it is, that time could stand still, especially when something beautiful happens. When he compares this to the displays under glass at the museum, Holden seems to be rejecting life itself. Life is change. Aging and mutability are inevitable. It isn’t just that society wants Holden to grow up; his own biological condition insists that he become an adult. When he resists change, Holden is fighting the biological clock that eventually will result in old age and death. He also resists simply growing up. Although we may admire his candor and even sometimes identify with his adolescent wish, we are left to conclude that Holden’s way leads to considerable frustration and, eventually, madness.