Catcher in the Rye:Essay Questions

  • TEENAGERS DON’T WANT TO LIVE BY THE RULES

    Mr. Spencer tells Holden, 

    "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” (Page 8)

     

     

    TEENS FALL IN LOVE EASILY

    Sees Sally.

    "I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her. I'm crazy. I didn't even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her. I swear to God I'm crazy. I admit it. (Page 124)

     

    TEENS LIE

    “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful.” (page 16)

     

    GIRLS DATE THE BAD BOYS

    Holden decides girls make excuses that boys feel inferior so they can date arrogant guys.

    "It's a funny thing about girls. Every time you mention some guy that's strictly a bastard--very mean,or conceited and all--and when you mention it to the girl, she'll tell you he has an inferiority complex." (Page 135)

     

    CONCERNED ABOUT HAVING TO GO TO WAR

    The movie Holden watched was about the Army. Holden says he would never join the military.

    "I swear if there's another war, they better just take me out and stick me in front of a firing squad...Anyway, I 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. (Page 141)

     

    INTERESTED IN SEX

    "Innarested in a little tail t'night?" (Page 91)

    Carl Luce was an expert on sex at the Whooten School.

    "Old Luce. what a guy. He was supposed to be my Student Adviser when I was at Whooten. The only thing he ever did, though, was give these sex talks and all, late at night when there was a bunch of guys in his room. He knew quite a bit about sex, especially perverts and all." (Page 143)

     

    GETTING DRUNK

    Holden gets very, very drunk after Carl Luce leaves the Wicker Bar.

    "Boy, I sat at that goddam  bar till around one o'clock or so, getting drunk as a bastard...I could hardly see straight " (Page 150)

    "When I'm drunk I'm a madman." (Page 151)

     

    TEENS POOR SELF ESTEEM

    Holden feels he is the dumb one in his family.

    "I'm the only really dumb one." (Page 67)

     

    TEENS GET CRUSHES

     Holden becomes obsessed with memories of Jane Gallagher.

     "All of a sudden, on my way out to the lobby, I got old Jane Gallagher on the brain again." (Page 76)

    "I know old Jane like a book--I still couldn't get her off  my brain. I knew her like a book." (Page 76)

     

    TEENAGERS CAN BE OVERLY EMOTIONAL

    Holden repeatedly states in Chapter 7 that he is depressed and lonesome.

    "I got up and went over and looked out the window, I felt so lonesome. I almost wished I was dead." (Page 48)

    "Boy, did I feel rotten. I felt so damm lonesome." (Page 48)

    1. Begins to cry

    "I was crying and all. I don't know why.  But I was. I guess it was because I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome." (Page 153)

    Holden is upset and crying right before he leaves.

    "Then, all of a sudden, I started to cry. I couldn't help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared the hell out of Phoebe when I started doing it., and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can't just stop on a goddam dime." (Page 179)

    Holden meets Phoebe on the steps of the museum and they argue, because she wants to run away with him.

    "I was almost all set to hit her. I thought I was going to smack her for a second. I really did...I wanted her to cry till her eyes were practically dropped out. I almost hated her." (Page 207)

     

    SNEAKING INTO THE HOUSE

    Holden decides to go home to see Phoebe one last time, in case he dies of pnuemonia.

     "Finally what I figured I'd do, I figured I'd better sneak home and see her, in case I died and all. (Page 156)

     

    TEENS ARE AFRAID THEY WILL GET IN TROUBLE WITH THEIR PARENTS

    Phoebe keeps telling Holden their father will kill Holden when he finds out that he has been kicked out of another school.

    "You did get kicked out! You did...Daddy'll kill you...Daddy's gonna kill you!" (Page 165)

     

    TEENS HATE SCHOOL

    Holden tells Phoebe that she doesn't understand how much he hates school and all the phonies.

    "It was one of the worst schools I ever went to, It was full of phonies. And mean guys. You never saw so many mean guys in your life." (Page 167)

    "You can't trust anybody in a goddam school." (Page 201)

     

    TEEN SUICIDE

    Daydreams about James Castle, a boy he knew at the Elkton School who committed suicide by jumping out a window because he was being bullied at Elkton School.

    "Old James Castle...he jumped out the window. He was dead, and his teeth, and his blood were all over the place, and nobody would even go near him...All they did with the guys that were in the room with him was expel them. They didn't even go to jail." (Page 170)

     

    TEENS HAVE A HARD TIME STAYING FOCUSED

    Holden stops listening to Phoebe.

    "I couldn't concentrate too hot. Sometimes it's hard to concentrate." (Page 169)

     

    TEENS OFTEN HAVE UNREALISTIC IDEAS ABOUT THE FUTURE

    Holden tells Phoebe he wants to be "the catcher in the rye"

    He imagines a huge rye field where he will protect children from falling off the edge of a cliff. "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye"

    "You'd know what I'd like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?...That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd  really like to be. I know it's crazy." (Page 173)

    Holden imagines living in a house in the woods and getting married.

    "I'd build a little cabin somewhere...right near the woods, but not in them, because I'd want it to be sunny...I'd meet this beautiful girl that was also a deaf-mute and we'd get married." (Page 199)

     

    TEENS RARELY EVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY

    He is running out of money and borrows Phoebe's "Christmas money" $8.65.

    "Listen. You got any dough, Phoebe? I'm practically broke."(Page )

     

    TEENS OFTEN DON’T CARE

    "I didn't give much of a damn any more if they caught me. I really didn't. I figured if they caught me, they caught me. I almost wish they did, in a way. (Page 180)

     

    ADULTS GIVE ADVICE—TEENS IGNORE IT

    Mr. Antolini is worried about Holden and tries to give him advice, but Holden is too tired to listen to him.

    "Frankly, I don't know what the hell to say to you Holden. I have a feeling that you're riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don't honestly know what kind...Are you listening to me? (page 186)

     

    TEENS WORRY ABOUT PERVERTS

    "Boy, I was shaking like a madman. I was sweating, too. When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kind of stuff's happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can't stand it." (Page 193)

     

    TEENS WORRY ABOUT THEIR APPEARANCE/HEALTH

    He reads a magazine at the train station and it depresses him because the articles are about hormones and cancer.

    "I started reading...I looked exactly like the guy in the article with lousy hormones. So I started getting worried about my hormones." (Page 195)

    "I'd had this sore on the inside of my lip for about two weeks. so I figured I was getting cancer." (Page 196)

     

    TEENS ARE UNSURE ABOUT THE FUTURE

    Holden is tired of people asing him if he is better and will "apply himself" in school.

    "It's such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean how do you know wht you're going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don't. I think I am, but how do I know? I swear it's a stupid question." (Page 213)

     

    Counter Argument

    Holden’s family is incredibly rich

    Holden checks his wallet for money and reveals to the reader that

     "I'm a goddam spendthrift at heart. What I don't spend, I lose. “(Page 107)

     

    Holden talks about his dad.

    "My father's quite wealthy...He's a corporation lawyer...he's always investing money in show on Broadway." (Page 107)

    Holden goes on a rant about the nuns' cheap suitcases and mentions that his roommate, Dick Slagele, from the Elkton Hills School had cheap suitcase.

     ”I hate it when somebody has cheap suitcases...It depressed the holy hell out of me." (Page 108)

    private schools

    maid

    live in an apartment with an elevator operator

    Vacation for the whole summer in Maine

     

    HOLDEN IS IN RE-HAB

    Main Character Holden Caulfield is at a psychiatric hospital or "rest home" and he begins to explain why he thinks he is there.

    “I’m not going to tell you my whole goddamn autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out her and take it easy.” (Page 1)

     

    HOLDEN GOING BARS AND DRINKING

    Holden goes to the bar at the hotel.

    He tries to buy drinks but the waiter refuses to serve him.

    Holden dances with 3 girls at the next table, but he clearly does not like them.

    Going to the nightclub depresses him.

    "There isn't a nightclub in the world you can sit in for a long time unless you can at least buy some liquor and get drunk. Or unless you're with some girl that really knocks you out." (Page 76)

    Holden gets very, very drunk after Carl Luce leaves the Wicker Bar.

    "Boy, I sat at that goddam  bar till around one o'clock or so, getting drunk as a bastard...I could hardly see straight " (Page 150)

     

    HOLDEN HAS EXPERIENCED SEVERAL DEATHS

    Allie died from leukemia when he was 11 years old (July 18, 1946)

    Holden is 2 years older than Allie, he was 13 when his brother died.

    Holden describes Allie as intelligent, with red hair and

    "it wasn't just that he was the most intelligent member of the family. He was also the nicest, in lots of ways." (Page 38)

    Daydreams about James Castle, a boy he knew at the Elkton School who committed suicide by jumping out a window because he was being bullied at Elkton School.

    "Old James Castle...he jumped out the window. He was dead, and his teeth, and his blood were all over the place, and nobody would even go near him...All they did with the guys that were in the room with him was expel them. They didn't even go to jail." (Page 170)

     

    HOLDEN’S RELATIONSHIPS WITH HIS TEACHERS

    Chapter 2 (Pages 6-16) "Life is game, Holden doesn't want to play by the rules"

    Holden goes to visit one of his teachers Mr. Spencer.

    Mr. Spencer is old. He has the flu. Holden flunked his history class.

    Mr. Spencer tells Holden, 

    "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” (Page 8)

    Holden likes and respects Mr. Spencer but leaves his house when Mr. Spencer begins to lecture him about life.

     

    Chapter 24 (Pages 180-193) "Mr. Antolini warns Holden he is headed for a fall"


    Holden goes to Mr. Antolini's apartment. The Antolini's have just had a dinner party and the place is a mess.

    Holden notices that Mrs. Antolini is much older that Mr. Antolini.

    Mr. Antolini  had obviously been drinking, and he continues to drink.

     

    HOLDEN HAS BEEN BEATEN UP SEVERAL TIMES

    They fight and Stradlater has to hold Holden down and ends up punching him in the face to get Holden to shut up.

    After the fight, Holden tells the reader,

    "I had blood all over my mouth and chin and even on my pajamas and bathrobe. It parly scared me and it party fascinated me." (Page 45)

     

    Chapter 14 (Pages 98-104) "Sunny and Maurice shake down Holden for more cash"

    Holden is in his pajamas in bed, when Sunny and the elevator operator, Maurice come to his room.

    Sunny and Maurice insist that Holden give them more money, another $5.

    Holden and Maurice argue. Maurice shoves Holden

    Sunny takes the money out of Holden's wallet and wants to leave.

    Maurice and Holden continue to argue and Maurice slaps Holden around.