The Catcher in the Rye Suggested Essay Topics

J. D. Salinger

Suggested Essay Topics

Chapter 1
1. Discuss Holden’s obsession with phoniness.

2. Discuss Holden’s view of the relationship between knowing and feeling.

3. Discuss Salinger’s use of dialect. Compare or contrast Holden’s dialect with the dialect of teenagers today.

Chapter 2
1. Discuss Dr. Thurmer’s concept of life as a “game.” Do you agree with it? Why? Why not?

2. Discuss the relationship between Holden and Mr. Spencer. Is it a personal, caring relationship or simply a professional relationship between teacher and student?

3. Discuss the conflicting teenage emotions of sometimes feeling like a child and sometimes feeling like an adult. Discuss whether teenagers sometimes want to be treated as adults and at other times want to be treated as children.

Chapter 3
1. Holden says that a book is good, if, when you are finished, you wish the author were a personal friend of yours so you could call him on the telephone whenever you feel like it. What authors do you wish were your personal friends? What would you like to say to them?

2. Holden describes Ossenburger’s religion as bogus. Discuss religious beliefs which you feel that Holden would regard as genuine.

Chapter 4
1. According to Stradlater, good writing is simply a question of getting the commas in the right places. What do you think are some characteristics of good writing?

2. Discuss the extent to which Holden’s ability to develop and maintain interpersonal relationships is better than Ackley’s and Stradlater’s.

Chapter 5
1. Describe your understanding of Holden’s relationship to Allie and Jane Gallagher.

2. Given Holden’s exceptional writing ability, why do you suppose he did not dash off a simple descriptive composition rather than going to the trouble of writing an essay about his brother’s baseball glove? Discuss your answer.

Chapter 6
1. Why do you think Holden agrees to write a composition for Stradlater?

2. Why do you think Stradlater feels compelled to follow the rules?

Chapter 7
1. From Ackley’s behavior in this chapter and from the description of Ossenburger in a previous chapter, how would you characterize Salinger’s attitude toward organized religion?

2. What is Holden’s attitude toward women based on the way he feels about Jane Gallagher?

3. In your judgment, how does Holden really feel about leaving Pencey Prep?

Chapter 8
1. Why does Holden not give his real name when talking with Mrs. Morrow?

2. When he is with Mrs. Morrow, why does Holden pretend to be the “sophisticated man-about-town”?

3. What effect does it have on our reading when Holden tells us he can “go on lying for hours” if he “feels like it”?

Chapter 9
1. Why do you think Holden is concerned about the welfare of the ducks at Central Park during the...

(The entire section is 1282 words.)