The Catcher in the Rye Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- How does Salinger tend to end chapters? What do these endings have in common? How do they work to set the tone of the novel?
- The Catcher in the Rye centers around a young man – can women relate to this novel, too? What about Holden is gender-specific, and what is common to all teenagers?
- Let's talk about the ending to The Catcher in the Rye. Is it optimistic? Negative? Gloomy? Look at the end of the second to last chapter (Twenty-Five), when Holden watches Phoebe go around on the carousel. Holden says, "I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could've been there." The next (and last) chapter pulls out of the narrative and returns to seventeen-year-old Holden, the one telling us the story in the first place. So how does Chapter Twenty-Five function as a closing to the story-within-the-novel? How is that ending different from the ending we see in Chapter Twenty-Six? Does the tone feel very different between the two? What might this tell us about how Holden is now (at seventeen) as compared to how he was then (at sixteen)?
- How much can we trust Holden's descriptions of other people? Is Ackley really as pimply and disgusting as we're told he is? Is Phoebe really so smart and wonderful?
- Are there certain instances in the text where we can't tell whether seventeen-year-old Holden is talking about his feelings now or his feelings when he was sixteen? What about the line "Anyway, I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will"? Whether that's current Holden or past Holden is a pretty important distinction, don't you think?
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