Study Questions & Quotations for Young Adult Literature Fall 2000.
Catcher in the Rye
Jumping the Nail
Parrot in the Oven
Out of the Dust
in the Rye 1951
Genre: social and psychological realism. Anti-hero, male initiation novel; Time of novel: two days in mid-December, 1949 ; Locale: eastern Pennsylvania and New York City; Point of view: first person, with limited reliability; Grade level: 10-12
1. Holden has difficulty "fitting in." How does this novel compare to Tristram Shady? How are their beginnings similar? What is the role of their parents?
2. Holden finds that his idols have feet of clay or that they are "phonies." Give examples and explain. Is there a pattern here? Discuss. Are his views projections?
3. Explore Holdenís attitudes toward Stradlater as a projection of his own anxiety?
4. Trace Holden's reactions to Allie's death. How are Holden's conceptions of what a hero is, what a virgin is connected to Allie? Connect what you are observing to a discussion of the catcher's mitt episode.
5. How important is humor in this story? What does this imply about Salingerís view of the human condition?
6. Look closely at the image at the end of the novel where Holden recognizes that you have to let the kids on the carrousel reach for the gold ring. What does this mean?
7. Examine a few of the symbols in the novel. What does a car suggest to Holden? Why is Holden so curious about mummies in a museum?
8. Explore Holdenís relationship to women.
9. Disappearance and erasure are two terms which crop up thoughout the book. Trace a few of the meanings and incidents where these occur.
10. Look carefully at the description of "catcher in the rye." Analyze the symbols in this image. What are they falling into? What does "rye" symbolize?
1. Clocks, time, "chewing up the minutes that stretched. . ." (3). How does this maleable aspect of time become a pattern in the story?
2. Discuss some of the realistic aspects of Brent's experience with his friends at the party, his own feelings about himself. Discuss any foreshadowing and/or irony that
you see in such sentences as "You have absolute power over your own life" (18).
3. The plot is non-linear. Draw a time line for the development of the story. In Weeksboro, Maine, Alexandra says that the whirligig "symbolizes all unseen forces" (26).
How are the plot and the themes juxtaposed?
4. "We never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can't see. And into the future, where no one can" (38). Apply this idea to the accident as
well as one of the stories that revolve around a specific whirligig.
5. "He was lodged in his own chrysalis but had no idea what he was turning into" (43) also connected metaphorically with Brent's choice of his next book. Trace the
working metaphor through the book. How is the fiction he is reading a parallel text?
6. Some problems regarding language difficulties. See the reference to "retarded children" being linked with "kids who didn't know English" (57). Find other such examples
7. People live in flocks; they are always in a group, or in a karass (a disparate group of people linked together without their knowledge). We are all part of a community.
How is this theme developed throughout the story? Find some specific quotations that illustrate this fact.
8. What is the role of music and harmonica playing for Brent's development? Notice the journeying motif and how this is also tightly connected to music, either in the form
of folk music or classical music. Find examples and discuss.
9. Learning, maturation, reading, insight, and honesty are all themes that are intertwined throughout the book. Discuss.
10. Discuss the idea that the whole world is a vast whirligig and that each of us is an individual whirligig. How is this possible? Find textual examples and discuss.
1. The book starts by explaining what is not at Camp Green Lake. There used to be trees, a lake, a town, shade, and people, now there are only lizards, rattlesnakes, and scorpions. How is this puzzle attractive reading? How does this beginning illustrate the basic pattern of the narrative? A braided narrative? juxaposition as narrative form?
2. "My name is easy to remember," said Mr. Pendanski as he shook hands with Stanley just outside the tent. "Three easy words: pen, dance, key." How is this sentence a metacritical comment? In other words, how does this sentence show us how to read this book? How does Stanley's own name illustrate the narrative plot?
3. This is a story about juvenile delinquents, about learning, about reading, about crooks, thieves, and pig-stealings. Or is it? What satirical comments are being made about our views of these folks? Give two examples.
4. "Do you hear the empty spaces?" she [the Warden] asked (67). What are some other "empty spaces" in the book? Discuss the connection between empty spaces and the statement, "Zero was nobody" (81). How are these connected to black holes and time warps.
5. What are all the connections between Clyde Livingston, smelly feet, Zero, and Stanley? Digging holes makes character. Whose? Why?
6. "Doc Hawthorn was almost completely bald, and in the morning his head often smelled like onions" (109). Now look closely at this sentence: "A lot of people don't believe in yellow-spotted lizards either, but if one bites you, it doesn't make a difference whether you believe in it or not" (41). Examine the ways in which the ideas behind these two sentences are connected. This should also lead you to consider how myth and folk tales are woven into the fabric of this story.
7. There are some ethnic considerations elements in this story. What are they? How are these situations connected to a transcendence of these same elements?
8. Friendship. What is it? How do Stanley and Zero develop their friendship? What do they sacrifice?
9. Irony. What is irony? How does irony work in this book? Discuss some examples to illustrate how the Holes is an ironic demonstration of the onion-eating, layers of onion metaphor/episode in the book.
10. There seems to be nothing that is predictable in this book. Is this book in the absurdist tradition? a black comedy? What is serious becomes funny, and what is funny quickly turns serious. What seems to be a game turns deadly very quickly.
1. "Wonder why Daddy'll get his boy this time?" (5). This statement ends the first chapter. Describe the elements of foreshodowing does this statement contains.
2. Litotes implies understatement. Give two examples of this trope and explain why this form works in this book.
3. "When I'm with Arley's boys we forget the dust" (50). Discuss briefly why this is true and what the implications of this fact.
4. Explore the historical occurances that are alluded to in this novel. The New Deal (26), WWI (44), the Dionne Quintuplets (57), the depression, economic dependence on wheat, population growth, prohibition, polio (115), Lindberghs (145), CCC (181).
5. The effect of the chapter "Nightmare": What is the reality? the dream?
6. Pattern of apple blossoms and apple trees as examples of hope. How are these parallel to aspects of the story.
7. "The women talked as they scrubbed death from the house" (74). Explain how this metaphoric construct works.
8. Her burned hands, and hands in general are vital symbols. Discuss.
9. Look closely at the titles of the chapters and what is being discussed in that chapter. How are the two related? Discuss at least one specifically.
10. Explore some of the following terms and their changing meanings throughout the book: enough, empty spaces, poetry, music, emptiness, hunger, hands, and dust.