J. D. Salinger Honors American Literature

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The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger

Honors American Literature
Holden Caulfield kills many readers. He really does. He kills a lot of people, if you really want to know the truth. Holden narrates his story with a recognizable voice in a casual (if not offensive, at times) vernacular. He warns, “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. . .”(3). From this irreverent beginning through the poignant and puzzling ending, Holden provides a mid-20th century commentary on many issues, such as education, religion, entertainment, literature, politics, sex, and family. While some readers today find his views to be dated, many 21st century students find Holden’s voice still rings true.
Essential Questions

How does literature examine the values, beliefs, history, and culture of a society?

How does the American hero (or antihero) reflect the historical and cultural influences of his/her times?

Unit Questions

  • To what extent does Holden Caulfield reflect universal youth culture?

  • What is unique about Holden Caulfield as an individual? (Psychological Approach to Literary Criticism)

The Psychological Lens in the Study of Literature

There are many ways to approach Salinger’s iconic novel. We will be examining Catcher through a Psychoanalytic/Psychological Approach: The Psychological Lens uses the study of the mind and behavior to examine the motivations of a character or group of characters. Through this examination, the reader can get at the essential conflict or struggle of a character. The reader can analyze the issues or aspects of a character that the character may not be aware of. Example: Consider Holden’s developmental stage. What motivates Holden to reveal various details in the narrative, while other details seem sketchy? Why does Holden seem so preoccupied with “phonies?” Consider the impact of family and friends on Holden. How does Holden make decisions?

You are expected to take active reading notes (ARNs) that relate to the Psychological Critical theory. Therefore, your ARNS’s will relate to the protagonist’s state of mind, motivations, actions and so on. You will be able to use your notes when you write an essay about Holden at the end of our reading.

Read Chapter 8-14 Friday, April 15

Read Chapter 15-23 Tuesday, April 26

Read to the end Thursday, April 28


You will complete one of the following options for the week of April 11-15

You will complete a different option for week of April 25-29

Prepare a monologue about something VERY SPECIFIC going on today at Granby High School, in Connecticut, the U.S. or in the world today. Consider political events as well as pop culture. Who would Holden identify as a “phony?” Use Holden’s vernacular and make sure you reflect his values. Your writing should be 1-2 pages.


Write an original poem capturing a prominent theme, symbol, or conflict in the novel. Use a verse format of your choice, but aim for a minimum of 20 lines. This should not be a first draft effort! You will be graded on the quality of the poem as well as the relevance of the content. You will hand in the poem and a written rationale (approximately ½ page) of your crafting choices.


Go to www.humanmetrics.com and take one of the personality profiles as if you are Holden Caulfield. Write a short (1 – 2 pages) comparison/contrast essay of yourself and Holden. Use specific text evidence to support your theories about Holden.


Select a prominent symbol, setting, or image from the text and paint, draw, or construct a 3-dimentional interpretation. Prepare a written explanation (approximately ½ page) for your artistic choices and present your visual interpretation to the class.


Select any 10 consecutive events (a memory or thought can be an event too) and use them to label the x-axis of a graph. The y-axis would be the range of Holden’s mood, from despondent to gleeful. Decide what the intersection point would be for each event, and draw the graph. Then write an explanation (approx. ¾ page) of your findings (what sorts of events and thinking bring Holden down? what cheers him up?) What would you conclude?


With a partner, prepare a lesson on any part of the week’s reading. You may devise your own lesson, but please discuss with me ahead of time. In addition, here are suggestions:

  • Make up 5 statements and have students stand on a continuum according to their beliefs. Guide the class in a discussion to support their choices. At the close of the activity, you’ll need to write a short reflection on the lesson.

  • Devise 7 to 10 questions to be pulled out of a basket for discussion. Write your own detailed responses to 2 -3 of your own questions (minimum 1 page typed, double-spaced)

  • Pull quotes from the novel to have people draw them, act them, pose in tableau, or analyze them. You will need one per class member. Submit your list of quotes as well as a short reflection on the class activity.

  • Take a traditional game and find a way to use it to discuss or quiz students on their reading.

  • Select a pivotal scene and instruct the class to stage it. Consider props, costumes, and set in your reenactment. Hand in a script as well as a short (1/2 page) explanation for selecting this particular scene.


Select a key scene to reenact and film using direct text. Your interpretation of the scene in terms of props, costumes, symbolism, lighting, background music, narration, and so forth should reveal your in-depth understanding of the text. You will share the film with the class and explain the significance of the scene and your production choices. This option may be completed with a partner or in a small group (check with me first).


Design a board game to reflect Holden’s life so far with various options for his future. Your game should include events, quotes, plot points, and symbols from the text, but you can design the game concept, the objective, the rules, game pieces and so forth. This option may be completed with a partner or in a small group (check with me first).

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