The Catcher in the Rye (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Published in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was an immediate best-seller and a Book- of-the-Month-Club selection. The controversy surrounding it began almost simultaneously with its publication. The complaints against this book have been steady throughout the years, beginning in 1954 in California’s Los Angeles and Marin counties. Surveys taken in the early 1960’s indicated that the book was one of the most often banned selections, as well as one of the most frequently taught books in schools. Two decades later its rankings in both categories remained essentially unchanged. The book has been a target of censorship by critics who have found its central character, Holden Caulfield, a poor “role model” who uses foul language, among other things. Those who defend the book, however, maintain that its multidimensional qualities justify teaching it in literature courses at all educational levels.
As the narrator of The Catcher in the Rye, Caulfield describes the two days that he spends roaming New York City because his “nerves were shot.” He uses this trip as a temporary escape before his parents learn that he has been expelled from yet another prep school. During this adventure, Caulfield makes both an actual and symbolic journey. In New York, he not only finds diversion from the problems he is having at school, but he immerses himself in the place that he finds most...
(The entire section is 1125 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*New York City
*New York City. Primary setting for most of Salinger’s writings. Salinger knew the city well; while he grants New York the “big-city” aura for which it is famous, he also paints a picture of the city’s darker side. Instead of having Holden attend fancy cocktail parties, Salinger has him staying at the seedy Edmont Hotel and sleeping in Grand Central Station. According to Salinger, New York is a place that brings out the worst in people.
*Upper East Side
*Upper East Side. Manhattan neighborhood in which Holden’s family lives. While his parents are away, he visits with his sister Phoebe in the family apartment. For Holden, Phoebe is the only person who is not a phony, and Salinger paints a portrait of her as pure innocence. Everything in her room is neat and orderly, including her schoolbooks. The whole apartment suggests normalcy and structure, the two things Holden needs more than anything else.
Edmont Hotel. Rundown hotel in which Holden stays. The building represents the uglier side of New York City, and its ugliness is reinforced in a scene involving a prostitute named Sunny and one in which Holden makes unsuccessful sexual advances toward two women at a nightclub.
*Rockefeller Center. New York City landmark with a public ice skating rink to which Holden takes Sally Hayes on a date. While...
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The events in The Catcher in the Rye take place in 1946, only a year after the end of World War II. Adults at this time had survived the Great Depression and the multiple horrors of the war. Paradoxically, the war that wounded and killed so many people was the same instrument that launched the nation into an era of seemingly unbounded prosperity. During the postwar years, the gross national product rose to $500 billion, compared with $200 billion in prewar 1940. In unprecedented numbers, people bought houses, television sets, second cars, washing machines, and other consumer goods. No wonder the nation wanted to forget the past and to celebrate its new beginnings. The celebration took the form of a new materialism and extreme conservatism. Traditional values were the norm. People did not want to hear from the Holden Caulfields and J. D. Salingers of the era. They were in a state of blissful denial.
Holden has withdrawn from this society enough to see it from a different perspective. He abhors the banality and hypocrisy he sees in the adult world and is therefore reluctant to participate in it, so his behavior, while that of an adolescent trying to affirm his own identity,...
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The plot of this novel, set soon after the end of World War II, is relatively spare. Holden Caulfield has been expelled from a private prep school, Pencey, and his leave-taking opens the novel. In preparing to leave, Holden sardonically comments on the boorishness of his classmates and the "phony" behavior of students and adults alike. Holden cannot communicate his alienation to teachers or counselors and habitually deflects conversations with them by telling lies, particularly ones he knows they want to hear.
He takes a train home to New York and again lies to adults to mask his reason for being away from Pencey. Once in New York, where his parents do not expect him, he checks into a hotel and his wanderings begin.
(The entire section is 124 words.)
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. Who is Holden Caulfield?
2. Who is D.B., and why is Holden somewhat contemptuous of him?
3. What is the reality of Pencey Prep in contrast to the advertisements, as seen by Holden?
4. Why does Holden watch the game from the hill?
5. Who is Selma Thurmer, and why did Holden like her?
6. Who is Mr. Spencer, and why was Holden going to visit him?
7. Why was Holden trying to “feel” some kind of good-bye?
8. What does Holden think about the other students who attend Pencey?
9. How popular was the sport of polo at Pencey Prep?
10. Does Holden blame others for his flunking out of school?
1. Holden Caulfield is the narrator of the story. He has just been asked to leave Pencey Prep for failing four subjects. He is telling the story from California, where he is recuperating from being run-down.
2. D.B. is Holden’s older brother, who is a writer. Holden thinks he has prostituted himself because he is in Hollywood writing scripts for movies rather than writing short stories.
3. Holden feels that Pencey has high academic standards, but he is skeptical about its claim to mold boys into “splendid, clear-thinking young men.” He thinks that those boys who were splendid and clear thinkers were probably such before they enrolled.
4. He was reluctant...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. What had Mr. Spencer bought and shown the boys when they were visiting him one Sunday?
2. What advice did Dr. Thurmer give to Holden?
3. Did Holden agree with Dr. Thurmer’s description of life as a game? Explain your answer.
4. Was Pencey Prep really the fourth school from which Holden was asked to leave? Explain your answer.
5. What did Holden think about Mr. Spencer’s description of his parents as “grand people”?
6. Why did Holden write Mr. Spencer a note at the end of his examination paper?
7. What was Holden thinking about while he said the following: “I told him I was a real moron, and all that stuff. I told him how I would’ve done exactly the same thing if I’d been in his place, and how most people didn’t appreciate how tough it is being a teacher.”
8. Why did Holden leave Elkton Hills School?
9. What excuse did Holden give Mr. Spencer for having to end the visit?
10. Holden told Mr. Spencer not to worry about him. What reason did he give for not worrying?
1. Mr. Spencer had bought a Navajo blanket from an Indian in Yellowstone Park.
2. Dr. Thurmer said that life was a game and should be played according to the rules.
3. Holden felt that life was a game only if you were on the team with all the “hot-shots.” But if you were on...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
1. Who is Ossenburger?
2. What was the substance of Ossenburger’s speech?
3. Who are Holden’s favorite authors?
4. How does Holden determine whether a book is outstanding?
5. What does Ackley usually do when he comes to visit Holden?
6. What is it about Ackley that Holden finds annoying?
7. Give an example of something which Ackley considered very funny.
8. Why does Ackley not like Stradlater?
9. What does Holden say in defense of Stradlater?
10. What did Stradlater want to borrow from Holden?
1. Ossenburger is the wealthy undertaker for whom a dormitory wing at Pencey Prep was named.
2. Ossenburger said that when he was in trouble he prayed to God. In addition Jesus should be thought of as one’s buddy.
3. Holden’s favorite authors are his brother, D.B., and Ring Lardner.
4. A book is outstanding if, when you are finished reading it, you wish that the author was a good friend, and you could call him on the telephone whenever you felt like it.
5. He usually walks around the room and picks up Holden’s personal things from his desk and chiffonier. What is equally irritating to Holden is that he always puts things back in the wrong places, seemingly on purpose.
6. Holden is annoyed by Ackley’s poor personal...
(The entire section is 268 words.)
Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
1. According to Holden, Ackley and Stradlater are both slobs. In what way are they different as slobs?
2. What favor does Stradlater ask of Holden?
3. According to Stradlater, what constitutes a good composition?
4. According to Ackley, what was it about Howie Coyle which made him a good basketball player?
5. What does Holden have to say about Stradlater’s sense of humor?
6. What was unique about the way in which Jane Gallagher played checkers?
7. What does Holden say about Jane Gallagher’s home life that piqued Stradlater’s curiosity?
8. How does Holden know that Stradlater would not tell Jane Gallagher that he had been kicked out of Pencey Prep?
9. When Stradlater asks Holden to write the composition for him, what does he say regarding the level of quality he wants?
10. Why is Holden glad to see Ackley return to his room?
1. Both are slobs, but Stradlater is a secret slob, who looks good on the outside.
2. Stradlater asks that Holden write a composition for him.
3. A good composition, according to Stradlater, is one which has all the punctuation in the right places.
4. Ackley felt that being a good basketball player was simply a question of having a perfect build for basketball.
5. Holden says that Stradlater does not have...
(The entire section is 319 words.)
Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
1. In Holden’s opinion why does Pencey Prep serve steak on Saturday night?
2. What is Ackley’s characteristic response whenever he is asked to go somewhere with the other boys?
3. Why do Holden, Brossard, and Ackley not go to the movies after all?
4. Why does Holden not like to sit next to Brossard and Ackley at the movies?
5. What card game does Brossard enjoy most of all?
6. What does Holden write about for Stradlater’s composition?
7. Why did Allie have writing on his baseball mitt?
8. How did Allie die?
9. How did Holden react to Allie’s death?
10. Does Holden express dislike or sympathy for Ackley at the end of this chapter?
1. Holden thinks that steak is served on Saturday so that when parents who visit on Sunday ask what was served last night, the boys would answer, “Steak.”
2. Ackley’s usual response is never to answer right away. Then he asks who else is going.
3. They do not go to the movie because Brossard and Ackley had already seen the movie that was playing.
4. Brossard and Ackley laugh excessively while watching a movie.
5. Brossard enjoys playing bridge.
6. Holden writes about his brother Allie’s baseball mitt.
7. Allie had poems written on the mitt so that he would have...
(The entire section is 270 words.)
Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Holden so interested in what happened on Stradlater’s date?
2. Why does Stradlater not like the composition which Holden wrote for him?
3. Why does Holden smoke in bed?
4. Where did Stradlater go on his date with Jane Gallagher?
5. How would you describe Holden’s attitude toward athletes?
6. Why does Holden punch Stradlater?
7. According to Holden, how can you identify a moron?
8. Why is Stradlater nervous after hitting Holden?
9. What does Holden do before looking in the mirror?
10. What is Holden’s reaction to all the blood?
1. Holden is concerned that Stradlater may take advantage of Jane Gallagher.
2. Stradlater’s understanding is that the essay should be a description of a room or a house. Holden wrote a description of his brother’s baseball glove.
3. Holden smokes in bed because it irritates Stradlater.
4. Stradlater says that he spent the evening in the car with Jane.
5. Holden sees athletes as a clique which is dispensed from following the rules.
6. Holden punches Stradlater because he assumes that Stradlater had seduced Jane on their date.
7. Holden says that a moron can be recognized in that he never wants to discuss anything intelligently.
8. Stradlater fears that he...
(The entire section is 231 words.)
Chapter 7 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Ackley not want to play canasta?
2. Why does Holden become angry with Ackley?
3. When Ackley insists on hearing the reasons for the fight, how does Holden answer him?
4. What does Holden think about as he lies in Ely’s bed?
5. What is it about Stradlater that makes him so dangerous on a date?
6. What makes Holden so lonely that he wakes up Ackley?
7. What is it that really upsets Ackley?
8. What does Holden decide when he leaves Ackley’s room?
9. Why does packing his ice skates make Holden sad?
10. How does Holden feel as he is about to leave Pencey Prep?
1. Ackley says that it is late, and he has to get up early to go to Mass.
2. Holden is angry because Ackley is interested only in the reasons for the fight rather than providing comfort for Holden.
3. Holden says that the fight was over Stradlater’s saying that Ackley had a lousy personality. Sadly, Ackley believes him, but then Holden tells him that he was kidding.
4. Holden does not think about his own pain and humiliation. Rather, he thinks about Jane and whether she was able to resist the allures of Stradlater.
5. Holden says that Stradlater has a sincere voice coupled with a handsome body, which make him irresistible to girls.
6. Holden is lonely...
(The entire section is 313 words.)
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Holden walk to the train station?
2. What does Holden say when asked whether he likes Pencey Prep?
3. Why is Mrs. Morrow concerned about Ernest?
4. Because Holden likes Mrs. Morrow, what does he tell her about Ernest?
5. According to Holden, why was Ernest Morrow not elected president of the class?
6. What does Mrs. Morrow suspect is the reason for Holden’s going home late on a Saturday night?
7. What is Holden’s explanation for going home on Saturday?
8. Why does Mrs. Morrow keep calling Holden by the name Rudolf?
9. Where does Mrs. Morrow invite Holden to visit Ernest in the summer?
10. What excuse does Holden give to Mrs. Morrow for not being able to visit Ernest in the summer?
1. Holden walks to the train station because it is too late to call a cab.
2. Holden tells Mrs. Morrow that it is as good as most schools, and that some of the faculty are “pretty conscientious.”
3. Mrs. Morrow feels that Ernest is too sensitive and serious, and, thus, not a “terribly good mixer.”
4. Holden tells Mrs. Morrow that Ernest is shy, modest, and one of the most popular boys at Pencey Prep.
5. Holden said that Ernest was not elected president because he would not allow his classmates to nominate him.
(The entire section is 279 words.)
Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. What does Holden do when he reaches Penn Station?
2. What does Holden discuss with the cab driver on the way to the Edmont Hotel?
3. What is Holden’s opinion of the Edmont Hotel?
4. How does Holden describe the bellman at the Edmont Hotel?
5. How does Holden feel about “necking” with girls whom he does not really care about?
6. What type of rules does Holden have difficulty observing?
7. What excuse has Holden planned to use in order to get through to Jane Gallagher on the telephone after-hours?
8. Why does Holden not call Jane Gallagher?
9. From whom did Holden get Faith Cavendish’s name?
10. How does Holden feel after Faith Cavendish refuses to meet him for a cocktail?
1. Holden goes to a phone booth and considers calling D.B., Phoebe, Jane Gallagher’s mother, Sally Hayes, and Carl Luce. He comes up with reasons for not calling any of them. In the end, he calls no one.
2. Holden asks the cab driver whether he knows what happens to the ducks in the Central Park lagoon when the pond freezes over.
3. Holden thinks the Edmont Hotel is “lousy with perverts.” He thinks Stradlater would have fit right in.
4. Holden says the bellman looks to be about 65. He is even more depressing than the room—having to carry people’s suitcases...
(The entire section is 364 words.)
Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Holden decide not to call Phoebe?
2. How does Holden feel about Phoebe?
3. How much does Holden think it will cost him to get a prime table in the Lavender Room?
4. How does Holden know that the three girls at the next table are not from New York City?
5. How do the girls react when Holden asks them whether anyone wants to dance?
6. What does Bernice say that betrays how shallow she is?
7. Does Bernice enjoy dancing with Holden?
8. How does Holden overstep the bounds of propriety with Bernice?
9. Do the girls invite Holden to sit down at their table?
10. How does Holden describe the experience of dancing with Marty?
1. Holden is concerned that one of his parents will answer the telephone. Moreover, even if he hangs up, he thinks that his mother will know it is he because she is “psychic.”
2. Holden is very fond of Phoebe. He says that she is pretty and smart. In a discussion, she understands exactly what you are talking about. She can distinguish a good movie from a bad one. She, however, is sometimes too affectionate and very emotional.
3. Holden thinks a dollar tip to the headwaiter will get him a good table.
4. Holden notices that their hats are not the kind commonly worn in New York City.
5. They giggle....
(The entire section is 289 words.)
Chapter 11 Questions and Answers
1. Does Holden think that Stradlater seduced Jane Gallagher?
2. What sports does Jane Gallagher enjoy playing?
3. How did Jane Gallagher and Holden get to be friends?
4. What kind of books did Jane Gallagher like to read?
5. Is Jane Gallagher pretty?
6. What was it that made Jane Gallagher cry when she and Holden were playing checkers?
7. How important was necking in Holden’s relationship with Jane Gallagher?
8. How does Holden know about Ernie’s in Greenwich Village?
9. Who is Ernie?
10. What does Holden find especially irritating about Ernie?
1. No, he does not. But Holden says that it drives him crazy just thinking about it.
2. Jane Gallagher enjoys playing golf and tennis.
3. Jane Gallagher was a neighbor of Holden’s at their summer houses in Maine. They met at the swimming pool at the club after an incident regarding her dog relieving itself on the Caulfield lawn.
4. Holden says that Jane reads very good books, including much poetry.
5. Holden’s mother does not think Jane is pretty. But Holden says that he just liked the way she looked, that’s all.
6. It had to do with her mother’s husband. But Holden says that he never did find out what was the matter.
7. It was not important at all....
(The entire section is 267 words.)
Chapter 12 Questions and Answers
1. What is the main theme of the first paragraph?
2. How does Holden describe Horwitz’s personality?
3. What does Holden discuss with Horwitz?
4. How does Holden characterize the patrons at Ernie’s?
5. What is it that Holden objects to about the crowd at Ernie’s?
6. Why does Holden feel sorry for Ernie?
7. Describe the conversations going on at tables next to Holden.
8. Who is Lillian Simmons?
9. From Lillian Simmons’ point of view, what is most impressive about D.B.?
10. How does Holden feel about such social amenities as saying to someone, “Glad to have met you?”
1. The main theme of the first paragraph is loneliness. He mentions it twice as well as the ducks, symbols of loneliness and alienation.
2. Holden describes Horwitz as impatient and the type of man who always sounds angry about something when he speaks.
3. Holden discusses with Horwitz what happens to the ducks and fish in the Central Park lagoon in the winter.
4. Holden says that most of the patrons are college and prep school students who are jerks.
5. Holden objects to the fact that the crowd applauds Ernie whether he plays well or poorly.
6. Holden feels sorry for Ernie because Ernie may not know anymore whether he is playing well or poorly,...
(The entire section is 313 words.)
Chapter 13 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Holden walk back to the hotel rather than take a cab?
2. What does Holden think about as he walks back to the hotel?
3. What kind of a drinker does Holden think he is?
4. How does Holden feel when he arrives back at the hotel?
5. What excuse does Holden give for agreeing to meet with the prostitute?
6. What does Holden think about a girl’s ability to control herself in the heat of passion?
7. Does Holden look forward to meeting with the prostitute?
8. How does Holden feel when the prostitute takes off her dress?
9. When does Holden begin to feel sorry for Sunny?
10. What excuse does Holden give Sunny for not wanting to have sex with her?
1. Holden says that, sometimes, you get tired of riding in taxi cabs in the same way you get tired of riding in elevators. Suddenly, one has to walk, no matter how far or how high up.
2. Holden thinks about his stolen gloves and how he would not have the courage to confront the thief and hit him if provoked. He sees himself as cowardly.
3. Holden thinks he has the capacity to drink a great deal of alcohol without appearing to be drunk.
4. Although Holden is not sleepy, he is depressed. He says that he almost wishes he were dead.
5. Holden says that he was so depressed he did not even...
(The entire section is 329 words.)
Chapter 14 Questions and Answers
1. After Sunny leaves Holden’s room, whom does he begin talking to?
2. What is it that Holden finds disturbing about Jesus’ disciples?
3. How does Holden’s belief about Judas differ from that of his friend Arthur Childs?
4. How does Holden say that Jesus chose his disciples?
5. How does Holden know who is knocking on his door even before opening it?
6. Why do Maurice and Sunny return to Holden’s room?
7. What is it about ministers that Holden does not like?
8. How does Maurice respond when Holden says that he is going to scream his head off if Maurice roughs him up?
9. What religion are the children in Holden’s family?
10. What excuse does Holden give for not committing suicide by jumping out the window?
1. Holden begins talking to his dead brother, Allie.
2. Holden is disturbed that, although Jesus’ disciples were all right after He died, they kept letting Him down while He was alive.
3. Holden believes that Jesus did not send Judas to Hell for betraying Him and committing suicide. Arthur Childs believes that Judas was sent to Hell.
4. Holden says that Jesus chose his disciples at random.
5. Holden says he knows who is knocking at the door because he is psychic.
6. Maurice and Sunny came to collect an...
(The entire section is 273 words.)
Chapter 15 Questions and Answers
1. When Holden awakens on Sunday morning, he thinks about the time of his last meal. When was that?
2. Whom does Holden think about calling when he awakens?
3. Where is Sally supposed to meet Holden?
4. Why does Holden not want to tell his mother that he was expelled again?
5. Why did Dick Slagle take Holden’s suitcases out from under the bed and put them out where they could be seen?
6. What was Dick Slagle’s favorite word?
7. Why did Holden miss Dick Slagle after they were given different roommates?
8. What subjects do the two nuns teach?
9. What does Holden find annoying about Catholics?
10. Holden says that he did something stupid and embarrassing when the two nuns got up to leave. What was it?
1. Holden’s last meal was the two hamburgers he had with Brossard and Ackley, the night before.
2. Holden thinks about calling Jane Gallagher, but decides against it because he is not in the mood.
3. Sally is supposed to meet Holden under the clock at the Biltmore Hotel.
4. Holden does not want to tell his mother about the expulsion because her health has not been good since Allie died. Holden says that she is very nervous.
5. Dick Slagle wanted people to think that Holden’s expensive luggage was his own.
(The entire section is 283 words.)
Chapter 16 Questions and Answers
1. What makes Holden sad when he thinks about the nuns?
2. How did the little boy walking with his family lift Holden’s spirits?
3. What kind of shows does Sally Hayes like to see?
4. Although Holden is getting low on cash, he takes a cab to the park instead of the subway. Why?
5. What is it about Phoebe’s liking to skate near the bandstand that Holden thinks is funny?
6. Why is the young girl in the park having trouble tightening her skate?
7. How does Holden feel while he thinks about Miss Aigletinger taking his class to the museum?
8. What is it about Gertrude Levine, his partner at the museum, that Holden remembers?
9. According to Holden, what is the best thing about the museum?
10. Is Holden looking forward to his date with Sally?
1. What makes Holden sad is that the nuns never get to go anywhere swanky for lunch.
2. The boy was singing, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.”
3. Sally likes shows which are sophisticated and dry.
4. Holden wants to get off Broadway as fast as he can.
5. The bandstand is the same place where Holden liked to skate when he was a child.
6. The little girl does not have any gloves on and her hands are red and cold.
7. These pleasant memories make Holden feel...
(The entire section is 254 words.)
Chapter 17 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Holden depressed when he is sitting in the lobby of the Biltmore?
2. Name two outstanding characteristics of Harris Macklin.
3. What is the best thing Holden can say about bores?
4. After Sally tells Holden that she loves him, how does she want to change him?
5. Holden says that the Lunts do not act like people or actors. What does he say they act like?
6. Why does Sally not talk much during the intermission?
7. What article of clothing does Holden associate with “Ivy League types?”
8. Why does Holden think that Sally really wants to go skating?
9. How do Holden and Sally’s skating ability compare with the others who are on the ice?
10. Does Sally like school?
1. Holden says it is depressing when he keeps wondering about what will become of all the girls when they finish school.
2. He was very intelligent and was a good whistler.
3. They do not hurt anyone—most of them. In addition, they might have a special talent like being able to whistle well.
4. Sally wants Holden to let his hair grow.
5. Holden says that the Lunts act like they know they are -celebrities, i.e., they are too good as actors.
6. Sally does not talk much, according to Holden, because she is busy looking around and being charming....
(The entire section is 264 words.)
Chapter 18 Questions and Answers
1. After Holden leaves the skating rink, where does he go?
2. In Holden’s opinion, how do girls defend a boy they like if someone criticizes him by calling him mean or conceited?
3. Why did Bob Robinson have an inferiority complex?
4. Why does Holden go to Radio City after he leaves the drugstore?
5. According to Holden, what is there about the show at Radio City that Jesus would really like?
6. In the movie, what happens to Alec that causes him to regain his memory?
7. Why is Holden so critical of the lady who sits next to him in the movie?
8. What kind of job did D.B. have when he was overseas in the army?
9. In Holden’s opinion, what was inconsistent about D.B.’s liking the novel A Farewell to Arms?
10. Why is Holden happy that the atomic bomb has been invented?
1. Holden goes to the drugstore to get something to eat.
2. The girls say he has an inferiority complex.
3. Bob had an inferiority complex because his parents were uneducated and not wealthy.
4. Holden goes to Radio City to pass the time until he meets Carl Luce at ten o’clock that evening.
5. Holden says that Jesus would really like the guy in the orchestra who plays the kettle drums.
6. Alec gets hit in the...
(The entire section is 299 words.)
Chapter 19 Questions and Answers
1. Describe the entertainment at the Wicker Bar.
2. What types of people frequent the Wicker Bar?
3. Why does Holden not like the bartender at the Wicker Bar?
4. What was the relationship between Luce and Holden when they were at Whooton together?
5. What word does Luce use frequently?
6. How old is Luce’s current girl friend?
7. Give one reason why Luce prefers Eastern philosophy to Western philosophy.
8. What is one of the annoying things about Luce, according to Holden?
9. What advice did Luce give to Holden?
10. What is the one positive thing Holden says about Luce at the end of the chapter?
1. Entertainment is provided by two French girls, Tina and Janine. Tina plays the piano and Janine sings.
2. According to Holden, the Wicker Bar is frequented by phonies and homosexuals.
3. Holden does not like the bartender because he considers him a snob. Holden says the bartender will hardly talk to you -unless you are a big shot or a celebrity.
4. Luce was Holden’s student advisor.
5. Holden says that Luce used to say “certainly” very often.
6. Luce is not certain, but he estimates that she is in her late thirties.
7. According to Luce, Eastern philosophies regard sex as both a physical and a spiritual...
(The entire section is 261 words.)
Chapter 20 Questions and Answers
1. After Valencia sings, what does Holden ask the headwaiter to do?
2. When Holden leaves the Wicker Bar, why is he holding his stomach?
3. After Holden talks to Sally Hayes on the telephone, how does he picture her at home that evening?
4. While in the restroom, what advice does Holden give the piano player at the Wicker Bar?
5. What excuse does the lady in the hat-check room give Holden for not going on a date with him?
6. Because it is dark and spooky, what does Holden say he would do if he happened to see someone in Central Park?
7. What does Holden say he wants done with his body when he dies?
8. Why was Holden not able to attend his brother, Allie’s, funeral?
9. While at the lagoon in Central Park, Holden counts his money. What does he do with the coins?
10. What is it that Holden worries about after he decides to go home and see Phoebe?
1. Holden asks the headwaiter to ask Valencia to join him for a drink.
2. Holden is holding his stomach because he is fantasizing that he is bleeding from a gunshot wound.
3. Holden pictures Sally at home with her date from Andover and the Lunts, all having tea, and having a sophisticated and phony conversation.
4. Holden advises the piano player that he needs a manager.
5. The lady in the...
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Chapter 21 Questions and Answers
1. When Holden gets on the elevator, whom does he tell the operator he is going to visit?
2. Holden is very skillful at opening the door quietly. What profession does he say he should have gone into?
3. When Holden enters the family apartment, how does he know for sure that he is in the right apartment?
4. How does Holden describe his mother’s hearing ability?
5. Why does Phoebe not like her own room?
6. During the first few moments that he is in Phoebe’s room, Holden says something he has not said for many chapters. What is it?
7. Holden’s mother has outstanding tastes in what area?
8. What kind of reading does Holden find very interesting?
9. How did Phoebe hurt her arm?
10. What does Holden say that he may do now that he has been expelled from school?
1. Holden tells the elevator operator that he is going to visit the Dickstein Family.
2. Holden is so skillful at opening the door quietly, he says that he should have been a crook.
3. Holden knows that he is in the right apartment because their apartment has a distinctive smell.
4. Holden says that his mother can hear like a bloodhound (sic!).
5. Phoebe does not like her own room because it is too small.
6. Holden says the he feels “swell” for a change. He just...
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Chapter 22 Questions and Answers
1. To what does Holden compare Phoebe’s behavior when she finds out that he was expelled from Pencey?
2. Where does Holden say that his father will send him when he learns that Holden has been expelled?
3. Even though Holden likes Mr. Spencer, why does he consider him a phony?
4. What was the Pencey alumnus looking for when he came to Holden and Stradlater’s dorm?
5. When Holden thinks about the nuns, what does he picture them doing?
6. Why did James Castle commit suicide?
7. What was the topic of the only conversation that Holden remembers having with James Castle?
8. What habit of Holden’s does Phoebe wants him to change?
9. What bothers Holden about becoming a lawyer?
10. Who is the author of “if a body meet a body coming through the rye?”
1. Holden compares Phoebe’s behavior to that of the fencing team at Pencey who ostracized him after he left the foils on the subway.
2. Holden says that his father will send him to a military school.
3. Holden considers Mr. Spencer a phony because of his obsequious behavior while Mr. Thurber was observing him teach.
4. The man was looking for his initials that he had carved into the bathroom door when he was a student.
5. Holden pictures the nuns holding their straw baskets,...
(The entire section is 290 words.)
Chapter 23 Questions and Answers
1. How does Mr. Antolini respond to Holden’s telephone call?
2. Who taught Phoebe to dance?
3. How does Holden feel after he dances with Phoebe?
4. What behavior of Charlene, the maid, does Phoebe object to?
5. Where does Phoebe say her prayers before she goes to bed that evening?
6. Why does Holden say that he has to leave the house?
7. Why does Phoebe not want Holden to go away?
8. Where does Holden plan to stay until Wednesday?
9. How does Phoebe try to comfort Holden when he is crying?
10. What does Holden do with the hunting hat?
1. Mr. Antolini responds very graciously, considering that the telephone call is made after 1:00 a.m. Mr. Antolini says that Holden is welcome to come over to his apartment immediately.
2. Holden taught Phoebe how to dance. But he says that she learned it mostly by herself, since you can’t teach someone how to really dance.
3. Holden says that he is out of breath because he has been smoking so much. He comments that Phoebe is not out of breath at all.
4. Phoebe says that Charlene breathes all over the food and everything.
5. Phoebe says her prayers in the bathroom that evening.
6. Holden has to leave in order to get his luggage from the train station.
7. Among other reasons,...
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Chapter 24 Questions and Answers
1. How did Mr. Antolini feel about D.B. going to Hollywood?
2. Why does Mrs. Antolini not want Holden to look at her when she enters the room with the coffee and cake?
3. What criteria does Holden say one must meet in order to get a good grade in Oral Expression?
4. Why does Holden like Richard Kinsella’s speeches better than anyone else’s?
5. Holden admits that there were times when he hated both Stradlater and Ackley. What else does Holden say about them?
6. What is the sense of the quote from Wilhelm Stekel which Mr. Antolini writes down for Holden?
7. What does Mr. Antolini say that Holden will do once he decides what to do with his life?
8. What does Mr. Antolini say that a good academic education will do for Holden?
9. What excuse does Holden give Mr. Antolini for having to go to the train station to get his money?
10. While awaiting the elevator, what does Holden say to Mr. Antolini?
1. Mr. Antolini was opposed to D.B. going to Hollywood. He said that anyone who could write as well as D.B. should not go to Hollywood.
2. Mrs. Antolini does not want Holden to look at her because her hair is in curlers and she had removed her makeup.
3. Holden says that to get a good grade in Oral Expression, one must stick to the topic all of the time.
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Chapter 25 and 26 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Holden spend the rest of the night after he leaves Mr. Antolini’s apartment?
2. What does Holden worry about as he tries to stop thinking about the scene with Mr. Antolini?
3. Whom does Holden think about calling before he meets Phoebe?
4. What rule would Holden require all visitors at his cabin to observe?
5. How does Holden recognize Phoebe from a distance at the museum?
6. Why does Phoebe have a suitcase with her?
7. What does Phoebe say to Holden that he says sounds worse than swearing?
8. How does Holden feel as he stands in the rain watching Phoebe ride the carousel?
9. From what location is Holden telling this story?
10. What is Holden sorry about?
1. Holden spends the rest of the night sleeping on a bench in Grand Central Station.
2. Holden begins reading magazine articles about hormones and cancer. He soon begins to worry about his hormones and whether he has cancer.
3. Holden thinks about calling Jane Gallagher, but decides against it because, once again, he is not in the mood.
4. Holden would forbid visitors to do anything phony while they are with him at his cabin.
5. Holden recognizes Phoebe because she is wearing his red hunting hat.
6. Phoebe has a suitcase with her because she wants to go...
(The entire section is 265 words.)
In essence, we have three narrators of the events that take place in this book. The first is the author J. D. Salinger who was looking back in anger (or in creativity) from his thirty-two-year-old vantage point. The second is the seventeen-year-old Holden, still institutionalized, who tells the story as a recollection. And the third, and most immediate, is the sixteen-year-old Holden who does all the talking. The form of the narration is first person, in which a character uses "I" to relate events from his or her perspective.
Stream of Consciousness
The technique of the narration is a form known as "stream of consciousness." While the book proceeds in a rough chronological order, the events are related to the reader as Holden thinks of them. Wherever his mind wanders, the reader follows. Notice how his language often appears to be more like that of a ten-year-old than that of a smart sixteen-year-old. This is a continuing demonstration of Holden's unwillingness to grow up and join the hypocritical adult world that he despises. Holden's conversation in the Wicker Bar with Luce demonstrates this reluctance aptly, when Luce expresses annoyance at Holden's immaturity.
The settings for The Catcher in the Rye—Pencey Prep and New York City—were the settings for J. D. Salinger's early life as well,...
(The entire section is 560 words.)
The popularity of The Catcher in the Rye largely depends upon its plot and its language. It employs that most archetypal of all plots: the quest. From The Odyssey on, Western literature has dramatized the adventures of a quester. Escaping from Pencey Prep to New York City, Holden Caulfield encounters various figures in his search for human connection and meaning. The fabulous creatures and adventures of early quest narrative have become realistic here, but Holden's story is no less terrifying than that of Odysseus. Like Odysseus, he finally reaches, thanks to Phoebe, home. Has he learned anything? Has the quest been meaningful? He has certainly learned that he cannot be "the catcher in the rye." In addition, the fact that he is recounting his odyssey to a psychiatrist suggests that he is shaping and gaining control of his experience. Perhaps understanding even leads to love; after all, he misses everybody he tells about, even old Maurice.
When The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951, much attention was focused on its "obscene" language. Now, in a more permissive age, more attention can be paid to the brilliance of its language. Holden's speech sounds authentic to almost all readers of the book. He uses the diction, slang, rhythms, and repetitiousness of the 1950s American teenager, shaped by Salinger to give it point, humor, and meaning. The question is, how can such a realistic example of teenage speech serve as such an effective medium of...
(The entire section is 260 words.)
If The Catcher in the Rye merely detailed the awkwardness of a young adult growing up, it would still be valuable. But Holden's periodic allusions to his favorite authors and books, his often humorous and consciously unsophisticated analyses of those books and writers, and the novel's carefully ironic imitation of several powerful literary traditions help explain why Salinger's book is also a major work of American literature, closely studied by scholars and critics.
From the novel's first ironic sentence contrasting Holden with Charles Dickens's David Copperfield, Salinger lets his reader know his story has a much more sophisticated literary background than the narrator's youthful voice would indicate. Throughout the novel Holden refers to famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Isak Dineson, Gustave Flaubert, Thomas Hardy, and William Shakespeare. Often used as school texts, the books and plays of these writers also express themes that help explain Holden Caulfield's alienation. Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms (1929) was a testament of an earlier American wartime generation disillusioned by the folly of an adult society that led to the loss of millions of lives in World War I.
I keep picturing all these kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all...And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.
Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby (1925) presents a romantic young American who becomes...
(The entire section is 460 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
1. Holden constantly uses the word "phony" to describe people, events, and popular culture such as movies. What does he mean by the word, and what does it suggest about his values?
2. Holden dreads military service because he will not be able to choose the people with whom he associates. What does this tell us about Holden's social ideal?
3. Holden criticizes virtually all the young people he encounters. They appear to be unaware of the complexities of the world outside of school and personal desires. Is his criticism of adolescent egotism accurate? Have young people changed since this novel was published in 1951?
4. Several times Holden discusses the Bible, religion, and Catholicism in an extended analysis, with seemingly sharp, ironic commentary. What is he really criticizing?
5. What does Holden mean when he says he wants to be a catcher in a field of rye, preventing children from falling off the edge of the field? 5. What does Holden mean when he says he wants to be a catcher in a field of rye, preventing children from falling off the edge of the field?
6. Does Holden see Phoebe as she really is, or is she a product of his imagination?
7. Is Holden mentally ill, or does he see things from a different, and perhaps justified, point of view?
Mark A. Weinstein
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Compare and Contrast
- 1950s: Religion is an integral part of many classrooms. Bible readings and regular lessons about religious topics are included in course plans.
Today: The separation of Church and State is rigorously upheld and children do not study religious texts; prayer in schools becomes a burning issue, and there is growing pressure from religious factions to have educators teach creationism to counterbalance lessons in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
- 1950s: Only about 58% of students finish high school, but jobs are so plentiful that employment rates remain high. Employer loyalty is the norm, and employees often remain with one company until they retire.
Today: Most employers that offer jobs with living-wage incomes require employees to have college degrees, even for low-level positions. Routine layoffs and downsizing largely eliminate company loyalty, and it becomes common for workers to switch jobs and even careers.
- 1950s: Classroom curricula focus on basic skills, including reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the inclusion of science in classes becomes a growing priority as the educational system tries to prepare students for the needs of a more technology-oriented world.
Today: Educators aim to give students well-rounded educations that include sex education...
(The entire section is 317 words.)
Topics for Discussion
1. Holden constantly uses the word "phony" to describe people, events, and popular culture such as movies. What does he mean by this word and what does it indicate about his values?
2. Although he discusses the subject with ironic humor, the idea of war clearly disturbs Holden. He states that his older brother "hated" the army and World War II. Holden dreads military experience because he will not be able to choose the people with whom he associates. What does this tell us about Holden's social ideal?
3. Although indirectly discussed in the book, the theme of death by war, disease, and accident has a profound impact on our understanding of Holden Caulfield. His obsession with the death of innocents, such as James Castle, indicates that he is very complex and sensitive. How does this obsession affect his thoughts and actions?
4. Holden criticizes virtually all the young people he encounters. They appear to be unaware of the complex world outside school and personal desires. Is his criticism of adolescent egotism accurate?
5. Several times Holden discusses the Bible, religion, and Catholicism in an extended analysis, with seemingly sharp, ironic commentary. What is he really criticizing?
6. Why does Holden so often tell lies or at least answer questions with only partial truths, especially questions about his real feelings?
7. What does Holden mean when he says he wants to be a catcher in a field...
(The entire section is 313 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. Compare and contrast Holden and Huckleberry Finn. How does their adolescent inexperience permit their creators, Salinger and Mark Twain, to assert moral values?
2. Several of Salinger's own writer peers have criticized his books for being naively romantic and juvenile in their point of view. Research the criticism of Salinger and support or refute such arguments.
3. Holden frequently refers to Hollywood and New York's Madison Avenue as American centers of phoniness. The capitals of American movie making and advertising, these locales symbolize for Holden the creation of false reality. What were these industries like in the 1940s and 1950s?
4. Holden champions the American writer Ring Lardner. What qualities does Lardner's fiction have that attract Holden?
5. Salinger's other books also focus on youth or recall nostalgically and poignantly the lives of characters now grown up. Analyze what common themes and events underlie Salinger's later books and The Catcher in the Rye.
(The entire section is 149 words.)
Topics for Further Study
- Investigate current research on adolescent psychology. According to current theory, argue whether Holden Caulfield is a typical troubled adolescent or a seriously mentally ill young man.
- Is Holden Caulfield a reliable narrator? Why or why not?
- Compare Holden's generation of the 1940s to today's generation. How are the two cultures similar and different?
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Because The Catcher in the Rye deals with those perennial themes of American fiction, the struggle of the individual with society and the struggle against Time, it has been compared with almost all of its major predecessors. Holden has been related to such diverse figures as Jay Gatsby, sensitive to the rich possibilities of life but trapped in an acquisitive and phony society; Henry David Thoreau, drawn to a purer life in the woods; and even Captain Ahab, on a quest for the Absolute. If nothing else, these genealogical charts show that The Catcher in the Rye lies in the mainstream of American literature.
One literary precedent stands out strikingly: The Catcher in the Rye is a kind of updating of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Both stories are told by their adolescent heroes in vivid, colloquial English. Both young men are loving, sensitive, perceptive, and troubled. Both escape from their conventional circumstances, which they feel to be constraining and phony, to seek a more authentic existence. During their flights, both encounter a series of strangers, many of whom are threatening. Each boy becomes the vehicle for a devastating criticism of his loveless society. Finally, each returns home. But the differences between the two books are at least as important as the similarities and measure the road that America traveled in the intervening sixty-seven years. Huck is more accepting of reality; Holden is more alienated. Huck is...
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Salinger's other important books, all of which were published after The Catcher in the Rye, deal with a more extensive family than Holden's: the Glass family. But these works can all be viewed as more sophisticated, philosophical explorations of the concerns and themes first raised in The Catcher in the Rye. In Nine Stories, Salinger introduces the Glass family and suggests the profound spiritual disillusionment of Western artists that resulted from the Great Depression and World War II. Franny and Zooey describes the youngest members of this family and reiterates Salinger's sharp criticism of contemporary society, pseudo-intellectuals, and the East Coast academic and literary culture. The character of Franny dramatizes a theme Salinger spent most of the 1950s exploring: the conflict between alienation from a world the European existentialist philosophers described as meaningless and without religious certitude, and a neo-mystical, religious psychology that Franny exhibits in her desire to escape that world. Salinger suggests that mysticism and a search for perfection, which Franny absorbs from her brilliant but suicidal older brother Seymour, is an insufficient solution to the condition of modern humankind. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction portray Seymour as a visionary seer and seeker after Eastern religious insight who is so wounded by the world and frustrated by his inability to find...
(The entire section is 257 words.)
What Do I Read Next?
- The Member of the Wedding (1946) by Carson McCullers tells of an awkward young girl living in a southern town as she suffers the pangs of growing up and feelings of isolation.
- In her influential first novel, The Outsiders (1967) S. E. Hinton writes of how two gangs—the Socs, who are teens from well-off families, and the Greasers, who come from lower-income homes—come to blows that lead to murder. Hinton, who was a teenager when she wrote the novel, creates remarkable, sympathetic portraits of the troubled teens in the Greasers gang.
- In Judith Guest's Ordinary People (1976), a disturbed teenager comes to grips with the events underlying his attempted suicide with the help of his psychotherapist.
- Three Friends (1984), by Myron Levoy, in which an intelligent fourteen-year-old boy who enjoys chess and psychology becomes involved with Karen, a feminist activist, and her artistic friend, Lori; all three consider themselves outsiders and develop complex and troubled relationships with each other.
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For Further Reference
Alsen, Eberhard. Salinger's Glass Stories as a Composite Novel. Troy, NY: Whitson Publishing, 1983. A recent, illuminating analysis of all Salinger's books.
Beacham, Walton, ed. Research Guide to Biography and Criticism. Washington, DC: Beacham Publishing, 1985. A useful factual compendium, the article on Salinger is brief but very useful as a research tool.
Bruni, Domenic. "J. D. Salinger." In Critical Survey of Long Fiction, edited by Frank N. Magill. Vol. 6. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1983. This entry contains a brief biography of Salinger and a good discussion of The Catcher in the Rye.
French, Warren. J. D. Salinger. 1963. Reprint. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Solid biographical information and thorough, astute analyses of Salinger's books.
Galloway, David D. The Absurd Hero in American Fiction. 1966. Reprint. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970. A fine analysis of Salinger's fiction as an expression of the major intellectual and literary spirit of the post-World War II era. Galloway discusses existentialism and religious doubt and Salinger's response to his time. The book contains a very useful chronological bibliography tracking publications by and about Salinger.
Hamilton, Ian. In Search of J. D. Salinger. New York: Random House, 1988. This is the most recent and thorough documentation of Salinger's biography. It provides a historical and...
(The entire section is 354 words.)
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bloom, Harold, ed. Holden Caulfield. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.
Bryan, James. "The Psychological Stucture of The Catcher in the Rye." In PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association, Vol. 89, no. 5, 1974, pp. 1065-74.
Burger, Nash K. "Books of The Times." In New York Times, July 16, 1951, p. 19.
Engle, Paul. "Honest Tale of Distraught Adolescent." In Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine of Books, July 15, 1951, p. 3.
Faulkner, William. "A Word to Young Writers." In Faulkner in the University: Class Conferences at the University of Virginia 1957-1958, edited by Frederick L. Gwynn and Joseph L. Blotner. University of Virginia Press, 1959, pp. 244-15.
French, Warren. J. D. Salinger, Revisited. Boston: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1988.
———. J. D. Salinger. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1963.
Green, Martin. Re-Appraisals: Some Commonsense Readings in American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1963.
Grunwald, Henry Anatole, ed. Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1962.
Gwynn, Frederick, and Joseph L. Blotner. The Fiction of J. D. Salinger. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958.
Hamilton, Ian. In Search of J. D....
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Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Holden Caulfield. New York: Chelsea House, 1990.
Grunwald, Henry Anatole, ed. Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait. New York: Har-per & Row, 1962. Contains two important articles on The Catcher in the Rye. One deals with Holden Caulfield as an heir of Huck Finn; the other is a study of the novel’s language.
Laser, Marvin, and Norman Fruman, eds. Studies in J. D. Salinger: Reviews, Essays, and Critiques of “The Catcher in the Rye” and Other Fiction. New York: Odyssey Press, 1963. Includes an intriguing essay by a German, Hans Bungert, another by a Russian writer, and one of the best structural interpretations of the novel, by Carl F. Strauch.
Marsden, Malcolm M., ed. If You Really Want to Know: A “Catcher” Casebook. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1963. Contains reviews of the original publication of the novel. Examines Holden from opposing points of view, as “saint or psychotic.”
Pinsker, Sanford. “The Catcher in the Rye”: Innocence Under Pressure. Boston: Twayne, 1993. A sustained study of the novel. Contains a helpful section on the body of critical literature on the novel.
Salzberg, Joel, ed. Critical Essays on Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” Boston: G. K. Hall,...
(The entire section is 267 words.)