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 confusing—the adult world. As he wanders the city, he visits bars, encounters a prostitute, calls an old girlfriend, helps several nuns, and sneaks home for a brief visit with his kid sister, Phoebe, whom he dearly loves.
Caulfield discloses both the concrete details of his excursion to New York and the intimate details of his inner self. As an antihero, Caulfield finds it difficult to function in a system where nothing seems to be done for its own sake. Instead he sees people behaving primarily to satisfy others’ expectations. Although he strives for a sense of normalcy, he knows that he will never attain it. He remains a tortured adolescent; unable to understand life, he dismisses all adults as “phonies” and regards life as an unevenly matched game.
Caulfield’s poor attitude about life is only a minor point for those who have tried to censor this book. A 1991-1992 study by the People for the American Way found that this novel was among those most likely to be censored on the grounds that it is “anti- Christian,” or opposed to a censor’s religious convictions. Throughout the United States, parents have objected to the teaching of the book to their children in the public classroom because of its sexual content,...
(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 ice-skating should be a happy endeavor, Holden cannot get over the feeling that there are phonies all around them. Holden’s feelings are so overwhelming that they begin to spill over into his relationships with others,...
(The entire section is 688 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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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?
(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?
(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...
(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...
(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...
(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?
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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?”
(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?
(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...
(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?...
(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...
(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...
(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?...
(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 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...
(The entire section is 324 words.)
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...
(The entire section is 271 words.)
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...
(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?
(The entire section is 272 words.)
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...
(The entire section is 390 words.)
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?
(The entire section is 265 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
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...
(The entire section is 267 words.)