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Themes

Like many of Salinger's works, "Teddy" glorifies a young child as pure and beautiful at the expense of seemingly crass, jaded, and materialistic adults. The author grants this particular child, Teddy McArdle, with the spiritual wisdom of many lifetimes (Teddy believes in reincarnation) and intelligence far beyond his years. Because Teddy is a child, many of the adults around him miss the value of his insights.

Questions About Youth

  1. What is the significance of Salinger's protagonist being a small child instead of an adult?
  2. Do the adults in the story take Teddy seriously?
  3. Who controls the conversation that takes up the latter half of the story – Nicholson, or Teddy?
  4. How does Nicholson see Teddy? Does he talk down to him, or look up to him? Does the answer to this question change over the course of their conversation, and if so, what causes this shift?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"Teddy" employs the typical Salinger dichotomy between ignorant adults and wise children.

Nicholson is unable to learn from Teddy because he can't get past Teddy's age.

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