The Catcher in the Rye discussion guide:
A few conversation starters.
Use this discussion guide to inspire in-depth thinking, and jump-start a conversation about J. D. Salinger’s controversial novel, The Catcher in the Rye. There’s plenty here to set your mental wheels in motion.
- Do you find the characters likable, or at least sympathetic? Why or why not? And does it diminish the novel’s message if you don’t find them likable or sympathetic? Why, or why not?
- Holden Caulfield’s go-to insult is to refer to people as “phony.” What does he mean when he calls someone a “phony”?
- Why do you think Salinger chose New York City as the setting for his novel? Is it simply because there’s more mischief for Holden Caulfield to get into? Or, does this setting suggest that The Catcher in the Rye is about something more than teenage angst and coming of age?
- As Phoebe Caulfield tells us, “the catcher in the rye” is a reference to the Robert Burns poem Comin’ Thro the Rye. What does the title signify, especially since Holden gets Burns’ poem wrong?
- Phoebe Caulfield is, of course, Holden’s sister. But what purpose does this character serve in the novel? What does she signify, and why?
- Discuss Holden’s observations about the carousel’s gold ring at the end of the novel. What is the significance of the ring?
- Do you, like many, read The Catcher in the Rye as a study of teenage angst, of coming to terms with adulthood? Or do you see it as a larger commentary on American society? And does it have to be one or the other? Either way, do you think The Catcher in the Rye is still relevant? And, needless to say…why, or why not?
And, be sure to send us your newly-discovered insights
in the Comments section at the bottom of
The Catcher in the Rye: A Twentieth-Century Jeremiad.
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