Free Study Guide for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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Although The Catcher in the Rye is a depressing and gloomy book, there is also humor to be found in it. Much of the humor derives from the ridiculous situations that Holden finds himself in, especially when he interacts with strangers. Some of the lighter moments, however, border on ‘black humor’, a device often employed by writers to expose the absurdity of human existence. The perfect example of black humor is found in the men who were cursing as they unloaded the Christmas tree, even taking Christ’s name in vain. Holden recognizes the pathetic nature of the scene when he sarcastically says, "It certainly was a gorgeous way to talk about a Christmas tree." Such phrases and other special use of language add more humor to the story; and the reader is often forced to laugh at Holden’s frank, misguided, opinions.


1. Would you define Holden Caulfield as the modern day tragic hero? Explain with examples from the text.

2. Discuss the relationship of Holden and Phoebe and show how Phoebe is the more realistic of the two.

3. Explain from where the title of the novel comes and what it means.

4. Explain five of the defeats that Holden endures in the course of the novel.

5. Show how the city of New York attains a character of its own.

6. How is the novel "framed" by the first and last chapter? How does the frame affect the plot?

7. What is your understanding of the word "phony" from the reading of the text.

8. Do you consider Holden an atheist? Explain with sufficient examples from the text.

9. Do you agree with the view that Holden has a latent death wish? Why?

10. Comment on the language and style of the novel The Catcher in the Rye?

11. Why is it impossible for Holden to make contact especially in a physical\sexual form?

12. Discuss the thematic concerns of the novel and show their relation to the time in which the book was published.

13. Who would you judge to be the least phony character in the book and why?

14. Who would you judge to be the most phony character in the book and why?

15. What is the point of view in the novel and how does it affect the mood and the plot?


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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger - Free BookNotes Online Book Summary
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