What are two chapters in Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor that relate to The Catcher in the Rye?

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sbanerjee1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The chapters "Or the Bible" and "Geography Matters" have ties to The Catcher in the Rye that can be identified after some probing and analysis.

The major premise of "Or the Bible" is that the Bible has been a leading influence in Western Literature for centuries and that even if a literary piece seems to be far removed from the Bible, one should not be quick to overlook even a subtle congruence between the two works. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden clearly speaks about his attitude toward the Bible and Jesus once, but what he says is actually indicative of an underlying major theme in the book. Holden says he believes in Jesus but feels the Disciples have only done Jesus a major disservice. However, he also thinks that Jesus would have forgiven Judas for his betrayal and would not have condemned him to hell.

Holden's dislike for the Disciples is because he likely views them as being "phony," which is how he characterizes most people surrounding him during this troubled phase of his life. However, he also believes in Jesus's all-encompassing grace and forgiveness. This stems from his deep-rooted (and well-masked) conviction that he too often acts in a phony manner (for example, with his constant lying) but is not inherently a bad person undeserving of forgiveness.

Holden also claims to like the lunatic, mentioned in the Bible, who lived in tombs and cut himself up with stones. Numerous times in the book, Holden has referred to himself as a madman. He also seems to be obsessed with cleanliness, being quick to judge Ackley and Stradlater on their hygiene (or lack thereof) and feeling ashamed of his own breath when it reeks of alcohol or cigarette smoke, especially when he blows his smoke-ridden breath towards the traveling nuns. Holden likely feels a type of camaraderie with this Biblical character, because he feels he is in a similar situation as him.

The chapter "Geography Matters" focuses on the importance of the setting and destination within literature. Much of The Catcher in the Rye takes place in New York City, which is known for its large population. However, in spite of this, Holden feels an inability to make a meaningful connection with anyone, and this leads him to feel a profound sense of loneliness. Eventually he even begs Carl Luce, someone he doesn't particularly like, to stay with him for another drink in a desperate attempt to alleviate his loneliness. His ultimate journey to the home and neighborhood of his upbringing is also critical to his growth, because it is where his experiences with Phoebe lead him beyond appreciating childhood innocence and accepting the reality of adult responsibility.

There are certainly other chapters in Foster's book that also correlate well to The Catcher in the Rye, and you are encouraged to explore those connections as well.

mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two chapters that are definitely relevant to Catcher in the Rye are "It's More Than Just Rain or Snow" and "Is that a Symbol?"

The argument in "It's More Than Just Rain or Snow" is this: weather is almost always more than just a plot device; it's often symbolic of emotions or included to bring about some type of emotional response within a reader. Catcher in the Rye takes place in winter in New York. Things are freezing. Personally, Holden is going through a crisis of character. He's frozen at this stage in his life and does not know what to do. Holden also gives voice to the change that occurs in winter by continually asking where the ducks go when the pond in Central Park freezes over.

Symbols are everywhere in Catcher in the Rye. The two most prominent symbols in the novel are Holden's red hunting hat and the Natural History Museum. Holden wears the red hunting hat whenever he feels threatened or embarrassed. It's a sort of shield for him. The Natural History Museum symbolizes Holden's fear of change (remember the ducks?). He likes everything frozen in place.

Many other chapters from How to Read Literature Like a Professor are relevant, particularly the two chapters about sex.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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