The Catcher in the Rye
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Holden narrates the story of The Catcher in the Rye while he is recovering from his breakdown. Do you think the promise of recovery that Holden experiences as he watches the carousel at the end of the novel has been fulfilled? Specifically, has Holden gained a more mature perspective on the events that he narrates?
2. What is the significance of the carousel in Chapter 25?
3. Though Holden never describes his psychological breakdown directly, it becomes clear as the novel progresses that he is growing increasingly unstable. How does Salinger indicate this instability to the reader while protecting his narrator’s reticence?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Think about Holden’s vision of the nature of childhood and adulthood. Are the two realms as separate as Holden believes them to be? Where does he fit in?
2. The novel is structured around Holden’s encounters and interactions with other people. Does any pattern seem to emerge, or does anything change in his interactions as the novel progresses? How do Holden’s encounters with adults, children, women, and his peers evolve as the novel progresses?
3. Throughout the book, Holden longs for intimacy with other human beings. Discuss the different types of relationships Holden attempts and the different types of intimacy in the book. What is the role of sexuality in The Catcher in the Rye? How do Holden’s sexual relationships differ from his nonsexual encounters?
4. The most ambiguous encounter in the book is Holden’s night at Mr. Antolini’s apartment. What do you make of Mr. Antolini’s actions? Was he making a pass at Holden? What is the significance of his actions, and how do they relate to his role as someone trying to prevent Holden from “taking a fall”?
5. Holden often behaves like a prophet or a saint, pointing out the phoniness and wickedness in the world around him. Is Holden as perfect as he wants to be? Are there instances where he is phony and full of hypocrisy? What do these moments reveal about his character and his psychological problems?
by DaveMacDonald, September 01, 2012
'The song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” asks if it is wrong for two people to have a romantic encounter out in the fields, away from the public eye, even if they don’t plan to have a commitment to one another.'
I thought the 'Rye' referred to in Robert Burns' poem was the river Rye, hence the lines: 'Jenny's a wet poor body, Jenny's seldom dry'. In this regard it is about two people who meet at a river with no crossing, which will cause people to question why one of them is wet and what they have been doing.
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by juliaaparkerr, September 27, 2012
I have found one very important quotation from this novel to have been left out on this page. It is very useful for many papers and is a VERY important quotation!
Chapter 25 (towards the end)
"The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them."
This occurs while Holden is watching Phoebe ride the carousel in Central Park and fears Phoebe will fall off her house while reaching for a gold... Read more→
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by catcher61, October 02, 2012
"I thought the 'Rye' referred to in Robert Burns' poem was the river Rye, hence the lines: 'Jenny's a wet poor body, Jenny's seldom dry'. In this regard it is about two people who meet at a river with no crossing, which will cause people to question why one of them is wet and what they have been doing."
No. Rye means a field of rye. Remember that this is a sexually-themed poem. When Burns says that "Jenny is rarely dry," he is referring to her vaginal lubrication. Jenny is sexually active, so her genitals are seldom dry.
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