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