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The Catcher in the Rye

Study Guide

St Paul’s RC High School English Department


particularly in the group of stories published in the New Yorker beginning on January 31. 1948. Pennsylvania. 1955. sometimes hostile. gather intelligence. where. His fiction—published infrequently and almost exclusively in the New Yorker—explored a single fictional family. and write reports about his findings. for the Ursinus student paper in the one semester he was there. During 1937 and 1938 his father sent him to Poland and Austria to become acquainted with the suppliers of his food import business. must have seemed very distant from the sophisticated. the Glass family. Margaret Ann. as was generally his experience Salinger felt alienated. After his European travels. 1919. a particularly unenviable task for a half-Jewish American. flirted with the idea of acting as well as writing for the stage and films. Salinger attended Ursinus College in Collegeville. The trauma of these wartime experiences seems to underlie the transformation in Salinger's fiction that occurred in the late 1940s. a famous editor and the owner of Story magazine. Salinger Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1. on June 6. perhaps in the hope that he would one day take over the family business. In 1955 he married Claire Douglas. This and other serious stories about the World War II era launched Salinger on a prominent and enormously successful career.D. and a son. he took a night class at Columbia University taught by Whit Burnett. in 1953 Salinger moved to the small New Hampshire village of Cornish. Salinger observed the ferocious fighting on the Normandy beaches and went on to witness the liberation of Paris. in New York. New Jersey. in 1940. he withdrew progressively from the limelight. As a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps assigned to the 12th Infantry Regiment. including theatre reviews. the second child of Sol and Miriam Jillich Salinger. Salinger served in the United States army. During the 1950s and 1960s he was one of the most widely discussed and influential authors in the United States. Salinger began writing stories targeted for sale to the popular mass market magazines of the era and had his first one published in Story in 1940. During World War II. wealthy Park Avenue. he landed on Utah Beach. from 1942 to 1945. Pennsylvania. From 1934 to 1936 Salinger attended Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne. But Salinger was convinced from an early age that he wanted to be a writer. 3 . Although he wrote nine articles. and then seeing active service in Europe. training first at Fort Dix. considering the profound horror of the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry. New York culture that had surrounded Salinger in his adolescence.J. an ironic title for a story that ends with a character committing suicide. Matthew. But as his celebrity grew. and was met with a mixed. He left Ursinus and returned to New York. His father. unhappy. known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Salingers had a daughter. This small liberal arts college. His army job was to interrogate prisoners of war. where he met Ernest Hemingway. and disdainful of the process and rituals of formal education. populated mostly by middle-class Pennsylvanian students. Growing implacably hostile to the New York literary and publishing world. Salinger entered New York University in 1936 but quickly dropped out. who was serving as a war correspondent. Salinger saw tremendous slaughter and casualties once more when he participated in the fight to liberate Luxembourg. critical reception. 1944: D-day. with 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish'. in his youth. where he first began writing at the age of 15. of Scottish descent. may have been an actress and might have influenced her son who. became very successful during the 1930s importing ham and cheese from Europe. His work reflects the wartime era with poignant sensibility. 1960. of European Jewish ancestry. born February 13. Salinger's mother. He was required to continue these duties even after the Nazis had surrendered. Normandy. born December 10. Fourth Division in Europe.

A third-person limited narrator is an alternative that doesn't require the writer to reveal all that a first-person narrator would know.D. and why is it important that he has chosen this type of narrator for the story? 4 . and perceptions of a particular character in a story. a third-person narrator is a better choice. opinions. A narrator in a short story or novel does not live in the real world. The author creates the narrator from his or her own imagination to tell the story he or she wants people to read. a third-person omniscient narrator gives a panoramic view of the world of the story. and on how that character views the world and the views of other characters. For stories in which the context and the views of many characters are important.THE NARRATOR A narrator is the person or thing that tells the story to the reader. TYPES OF NARRATOR There are three main basic types of narrators found in most novels and short stories. Salinger used for his novel. The author of the novel or short story does live in the real world. (Wikipedia) What type of narrator has J. looking into many characters and into the broader background of a story. By contrast. The technical terms for these types of narrator are: • • • First-person narrator Third-person narrator (limited) Third-person narrator (omniscient) A first-person brings greater focus on the feelings.

teacher at Pencey who informs Holden of his expulsion.D. When the author presents his character or characters directly. Spencer.e. the reader must deduce what the character is like through the character's thoughts. the author literally tells us what the characters are like. Salinger has used for the main character of his novel The Catcher in the Rye. Jane. decide which of the following examples show direct characterisation and indirect characterisation? Explain your reasons for each choice and be prepared to feedback to the rest of the class. Antolini. Be prepared to feedback your thoughts to the rest of the class. Discuss this with a partner and justify your response with reference to the text (i. GROUP TASK 1 With a partner. Phoebe Caulfield.teacher who lets Holden stay at his apartment. GROUP TASK 2 Decide what technique J.CHARACTERS and CHARACTERISATION The people we meet in novels and short stories are called characters.One of Holden's acquaintances at Pencey. When the author presents his character or characters indirectly. b) The boy thought to himself that it’s best not to interrupt whilst the adults talked among themselves. even though he felt slightly sick.Holden's ten-year old sister. Mr. feelings. Stradlater. a) The patient boy and quiet girl were both well mannered and did not disobey their mother. however. 5 . give quotations).an old friend of Holden. Major Characters in The Catcher in the Rye • • • • • • • Holden Caulfield. looks and interaction with other characters. who dates Stradlater.Holden's roommate whom he envies. Mr. speech. actions.the narrator Robert Ackley. refers to how the author presents his characters: directly or indirectly. Characterisation.

Instead of deciding to face them with his failure. Holden must go home and tell his parents. The reader does not know this until the end of the novel. Phoebe. When referring to the setting of time you take into account time of year. When referring to setting of place you take into account the locations and conditions in which the events of the story take place. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye. The entire novel is written in flashback. Note down your findings and say why the setting is relevant to the story. D. Setting: Early 1950's. GROUP TASK With a partner. Holden leaves Pencey and goes to various and sundry places in New York City.D. Holden fails out of Pencey. time of day.B. who is a screenplay writer in Hollywood.SETTING TIME and PLACE The setting for a story refers to the time and place it was set. he wanders around the streets of New York City. discuss the setting of J. 6 . and a younger brother. an older brother. Background: Holden is in a mental hospital. time in history. The beginning of the novel takes place at Pencey prep school. Setting basically provides the backdrop for the story and can also set the tone of the story. Holden has a younger sister. It is not the first school that has expelled him. and comes into contact with some interesting characters. Allie who died years ago of leukemia. After getting kicked out of Pencey. and time it takes the narrative to unfold from beginning to end.

After a day of futility. and he is telling us his story while in this institution. but he can't call her for fear of letting his parents know he left school. where he lives. Find examples from the novel to back up your understanding of each element. He then enters a hospital not far from Hollywood. At the novel's close. Holden isn't sure whether he'll be able to handle things better when he leaves the institution. The person Holden feels closest to is his ten year old sister Phoebe. He spends his time with a variety of people. and though he has several friends in New York.PLACING PLOT ELEMENTS IN THE NOVEL The ‘plot’ of a novel or short story is the arrangement of all the events in the story (narrative). Normally the plot of a narrative can be broken into five sections. but can't make meaningful contact with any of them. Holden decides the only solution to his overwhelming problem is to run away and establish a new identity as a deaf-mute who will not need to communicate with anyone. The sections include: • • • • • Exposition (introduction of main characters etc) Rising action (shows main character in crisis or conflict) Climax (point of highest emotion – also known as turning point) Falling action (unfolding of main character’s crisis or conflict) Resolution (conflict resolved) Plot Summary: Holden Caulfield is a 16-year-old prep school student who has failed out of school two weeks before Christmas. Holden changes his mind and decides to rejoin his family. Though Holden is friendly with many people at school. On the verge of nervous collapse. he sneaks into his home to see Phoebe. With a partner. he is constantly lonesome and in need of someone who will sympathize with his feelings of alienation. discuss and make notes for discussion about the above plot elements in The Catcher in the Rye. 7 . he leaves school planning to spend some time on his own in New York City. and he is sorry that he told his story at all. but she disappoints him by being annoyed at his being expelled from school. Several days before he's expected home for Christmas vacation.

or perhaps the theme of death. Here is a list of possible themes in The Catcher in the Rye • • • • • • • • • • Innocence – Holden tries to protect the innocence of children Family – Holden’s relationship with his parents and siblings have deteriorated Loss – Holden lost his brother Betrayal – Holden constantly feels betrayed throughout the novel Alienation – Holden feels alienated from society Adolescence – Holden is an adolescent in search for an identity Maturity – Holden is very immature. In most novels there are major and minor themes. bet he believes he is mature Mental deterioration – Holden ends up in a psychiatric hospital Failure – Holden is constantly being kicked out of schools Sexual experiences/frustration – Holden is a typical hormonal teenage male.THEMES A ‘theme’ in a piece of writing such as a short story or novel refers to an important idea or subject that runs through the piece of writing. Sometimes it is difficult to say what the theme is in one word and therefore you need to think very hard to explain in more detail exactly what the theme is. yet he doesn’t have sex with the prostitute when she offers 8 . the theme of love or hate might be explored by a writer. For example.

lives in Hollywood. and avoids his parents.B. and everybody wants to be something else. Holden is alienated from society. he can not form lasting. although they do have insecurities. Stradlater betrays Holden by dating his best friend. Holden holds Allie and Phoebe in such high esteem because they are innocent. He was one of the few teachers at Pencey that Holden liked. He feels that the only person who understands him is Phoebe. Holden constantly feels betrayed. Most teenagers. When he hears the "Catcher in the Rye" song being sung by a little boy. He regards D. Another issue in Catcher is betrayal. Spencer broke the news of Holden's expulsion. to leukemia. When Holden returns home to see Phoebe. He is alienated more than most adolescents. so everyone can relate to Holden to some extent. 2. Mr. and he wants to keep them as innocent children. He actually regresses back to a child-like state of mind. Holden's goal is to protect innocence in the world. He also is in the midst of an identity crisis. Allie wrote poems on an old baseball glove. He thinks that no one is honest. and speaks about it in great detail. Spencer betrays him. whom Holden also had a crush on. and feels a tremendous loss. meaningful friendships.KEY ISSUES IN THE CATCHER IN THE RYE 1. That cliff symbolizes the transition from childhood to adulthood. and is a screenwriter. Jane. and feels like the only person he can talk to is his ten year old sister. 3. He loses his brother. He feels that no one understands him and that everyone is a "phony". Early in the novel. and Holden felt betrayed. are able to function in relationships. His brother D. Although he has many friends and acquaintances. He does not have relationships with girls or anyone because he feels that he is the only genuine person in the world. and that is a possible cause of his problems. Holden is socially inept. and not for intellectual redemption. Holden has to deal with loss. He is constantly dwelling on the death of his younger brother. All teenagers go through these phases. Life Applications: Holden is an atypical teenager. Holden does not mature through the novel. so he feels betrayed. not phony adults. she is disappointed in him that he failed out of Pencey.B. as a figurative prostitute. who writes only to make money. He thinks that she should accept him unconditionally. Holden regards him as a "phony" and has little contact with him. Allie. 9 . and Holden cherishes this. he decides that he wants to be the person that keeps children from falling off a cliff.