Area of Study: Change
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Chapter 1 - We meet Holden Caulfield (pp. 1- 5)
1. What evidence is there to suggest that our narrator is currently receiving medical treatment/ recuperating? (Please refer to p. 1 & p. 4).
2. In what ways does our narrator appear to be an ‘outsider’?
3. Why does Holden get expelled from Pencey Prep?
4. Consider why Salinger waits until the end of the chapter to reveal Holden’s name?
Chapter 2 - Holden’s school history (pp. 6- 13)
5. Given Holden’s description of Mr. Spencer, how do you think he feels about elderly people and aging?
6. Why has Holden avoided telling his parents that he has been expelled from Pencey Prep?
7. Holden tells us, “I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen. He then continues, “I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am- I really do- but people never notice it” (p.8). Discuss how the above quotes reflect Holden’s anxieties about growing up?
8. Why do you think the question, ‘where do the ducks go in winter?’ enters Holden’s consciousness whilst being lectured to by Mr Spencer? How does this reflect Holden’s reluctance to change?
Chapter 3 - Holden and his schoolmates (pp. 14- 22)
9. Why does Holden consider Ossenburger to be a ‘phony’? How does this contribute to Holden’s perception of Pencey Prep?
10. According to Holden, how can you measure the success of a good book? What does this tell us about Holden’s character?
11. Describe the relationship between Holden and Ackley. Are they friends? Why/ why not?
Chapter 4 - Holden and Jane Gallagher (pp. 23- 30)
12. Why does Stradlater ask Holden to complete his English composition for him? Why does Holden get frustrated when Stradlater instructs him not to “stick all the commas and stuff in the right place” (p. 240)?
13. What are some of Holden’s fondest childhood memories of Jane Gallagher?
14. Why do you think Holden decides not to go downstairs to see Jane?
15. What does Holden reveal about Jane Gallagher’s home life that intrigues Stradlater? How does this situation expose the fundamental differences between Stradlater and Holden’s moral character?
Chapter 5 - A tragedy in Holden’s family (pp. 31- 34)
16. Throughout the novel Holden makes many contradictory statements such as, “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot” (p.15) and “I hate the movies like poison, but I get a bang imitating them” (p. 25). Once again in Chapter 4 we find Holden contradicting himself, continuing to say he hates the movies though is prepared to go there. What do you sense Salinger attempts to convey through the use of this device?
17. Why does Holden choose to write Stradlater’s composition on his brother Allie’s baseball mitt? In what way is Allie’s baseball mitt unique? What does this reveal about what all three brothers share in common?
18. Based on Holden’s description, what was Allie like?
19. How did Holden react when Allie passed away? How is this information important to our understanding of Holden’s current state?
Chapter 6 - A quarrel (pp. 35- 41)
20. Why is Stradlater not impressed with the composition Holden has written for him? How does Holden react to this?
21. Why is Holden so ‘nervous’ when he asks Stradlater about his date with Jane? Why do they start to fight?
22. Why do you think Holden puts on his red hunting hat after his fight with Stradlater?
Chapter 7 - Holden leaves Pencey Prep (pp. 41- 46)
23. What do Holden and Ackley fight about? What is ironic about Ackley’s comment to Holden just before he walks out of his room?
24. Explain why Holden decides to leave Pencey Prep that same night instead of waiting till Wednesday? Where does he plan on going? Why?...