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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1282

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 winter?

2. Holden uses the excuse of not being in the mood for not calling Jane, just as he did in Chapter Four when he did not go to say hello to her. What do you suppose is the real reason that he does not want to make contact with her?

Chapter 10 1. Why does Holden try to make contact with three obviously unsophisticated girls from out of town?

2. Why does Holden take the liberty of kissing Bernice on the head?

Chapter 11 1. Use your creativity to describe the nature of the conflict between Jane Gallagher and her mother’s husband.

2. Describe Holden’s relationship with Jane Gallagher. Are they lovers? Just friends? More than just friends?

Chapter 12 1. Discuss Holden’s loneliness and depression in terms of how it permeates the entire chapter.

2. Explain why Holden invites Horwitz for a drink...

(This entire section contains 1282 words.)

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after he observes how difficult it is to discuss anything with him.

Chapter 13 1. Why does Holden spend so much time discussing his cowardliness (the various degrees of being yellow)?

2. Discuss Holden’s rationale for never having lost his virginity.

Chapter 14 1. Discuss the significance of the fantasy about being shot which Holden conjures up after he is punched by Maurice.

2. After Holden has been willing to compromise on so many of his principles, why do you think Holden is willing to get beat up over five dollars?

Chapter 15 1. Why do you suppose that Holden prefers to meet Sally Hayes rather than Jane Gallagher?

2. How does Holden feel about associating with people who are not as wealthy as he is?

3. Why do you think Holden enjoys talking to the nuns?

Chapter 16 1. Why does Holden feel less depressed after he hears the child sing, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye?”

2. Holden says that he does not like any shows very much and that movies are worse. Aside from the fact that he does not like actors, why do you think Holden feels this way?

3. Discuss why you think Holden changes his mind about going into the museum.

Chapter 17 1. Explain the following statement of Holden’s: “I told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it.” What does this have to do with Holden always calling himself a “madman”? In what ways might this and other contradictions be said to be acting “crazy”?

2. Discuss why you think Holden would not tell his roommate that he was an excellent whistler.

3. Discuss why Holden laughs at Sally while she is angry.

4. Discuss what Holden means when he says that although he would not have taken her up to New England, if she had wanted to go, he meant it when he asked her to go with him.

Chapter 18 1. Discuss whether you think Holden’s attitude toward war foreshadowed the anti-war movement of the sixties.

2. What does Holden mean when he says that he is glad that the atomic bomb has been invented?

3. Why do you think some people (like Holden) find religious tributes by the theater offensive, e.g., the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall?

Chapter 19 1. Holden describes the Wicker Bar as sophisticated, but he is critical of the people who patronize it. Discuss why you think Holden chose the Wicker Bar as a place to meet Luce.

2. Discuss how you feel about Luce. Give reasons why you think he is or is not an appealing character.

Chapter 20 1. Discuss the significance of the increased frequency of Holden’s references to his loneliness and depression.

2. Discuss Holden’s preoccupation with dying in this chapter.

Chapter 21 1. Explain why you think Holden enjoys reading a child’s school notebook.

2. Explain what Holden may mean when he describes his sister as “quite affectionate” for a child.

Chapter 22 1. When asked by Phoebe what he likes, Holden can think only of the nuns and James Castle. Why do you suppose he thinks of these people?

2. What do you think is the significance of Holden’s wanting to be the catcher in the rye?

Chapter 23 1. At the end of the chapter, why is it that Holden no longer cares if his parents find him at home?

2. Do you see any significance in the maid, Charlene, breathing on the food and everything?

3. Do you see any symbolism in Phoebe’s saying her bedtime prayers in the bathroom?

Chapter 24 1. Why do you think Holden was disturbed by Mr. Vinson’s behavior toward Richard Kinsella?

2. With regard to Wilhelm Stekel’s quote, “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one,” is everyone who dies for a cause immature? Please explain. Is there room in this world for both kinds of people?

Chapters 25 and 26 1. References are made to the hunting hat throughout the book. Comment on its symbolism.

2. Holden says that he misses everybody in his story, and he advises the reader never to tell anybody anything, because you start missing everybody. What does this mean?


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