- Who is the narrator in this story, at what point in time is he telling the story, and where is he when he is telling the story?
- What kind of tone is established in the first paragraph, and how is it done?
- What is it that Holden does not like about the Pencey Prep advertisement and about the headmaster, Thurmer?
- In the second full paragraph on page 4, why is Holden hanging around the cannon, freezing? What does this say about his personality?
- Find an example on page 4 of the narrator making a statement that is obviously false, which he expects the reader to believe. What do these repeated false statements tell you about Holden?
- Although Holden seems well-read, he continually leaves schools. Why?
- Holden stops in to say good-bye to old Spencer; and as he sits there, he gets more and more upset. Why?
- How does Holden’s reason for leaving Elkton Hills school further show that he is a sensitive person?
- How is it possible that despite Holden’s statement in the first line of chapter 3, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life,” the reader believes nearly every thing his says?
- Holden’s understandings are false much of the time, but the basic ideas are correct. Find an example of this on page 16.
- Why does Holden think that Mr. Ossenburger is a phony?
- What kind of person is Ackley, and how does Holden feel about him?
- Why does Ackley hat Stradlater? How does Holden feel about Stradlater?
- Do the characters Mr. Spencer, Ackley, and Stradlater strike you as believable people? Do Holden’s observations of them seem accurate or inaccurate? What method does Salinger use for Holden’s description of people?
- Holden is sometimes accused of being too critical of people. Can you point to times when he is positive?
- Find two examples of Caulfield repeating himself excessively. What might this repetition contribute to the book?
- Find one example of a simile on page 35 and 37.
- Despite his dislike for Ackley’s behavior, how does Holden demonstrate sympathy for him in this chapter?
- We learn of Holden’s younger brother’s death almost as an aside. How do we know the death was difficult for him, although he now talks about it in a casual way? What is unusual about the way Allie’s death is first alluded to on page 38?
- What indications are there that Holden might have idealized the memory of his dead brother?
- What does the following quotation reveal about the two brothers?
“I’ll tell you what kind of red hair he had. I started playing golf when I was only ten years old. I remember once, the summer I was around twelve, teeing off and all, and having a hunch that if I turned around all of a sudden, I’d see Allie. So I did, and sure enough, he was sitting on his bike outside the fence—there was this fence that went all around the course—and he was sitting there, about a hundred and fifty years behind me, watching me tee off. That’s the kind of red hair he had.”
6. In what way is Holden’s red cap a symbol of his alienation?
- What is ironic about the statement “I’m a pacifist, if you want to know the truth”?
- Why is Holden so angry with Stradlater?
- Why does Holden feel “rotten” and “lonesome” in this chapter?
- At the end of this chapter, why is Caulfield on the verge of crying? Why does he decide to go home?
- Why does Holden tell lies to Mrs. Morrow about her son?
- Why does he give her a false name?
- Explain the phrase, “Boy, was she lousy with rocks.” (p. 55)
- What is reemphasized about Holden’s personality on the first page of this chapter?
- Explain the irony found on pages 61-62.
- What question does Holden ask the cab driver? Why?
- Holden admits to being confused about sex and cannot always keep to the rules he wishes to adopt. What does the code of conduct appear to be working toward?
- How does Holden feel about his sister Phoebe?
- Why does Holden think the girls in the bar are “morons”?
- What does the blonde’s language reveal, and how does she behave on the dance floor?
- Holden can’t stand the thought of Jane’s being sexually involved with Stradlater because he sees her as pure and innocent. In what way is her innocence—her shy, naïve manner of living—emphasized in this chapter?
- What literary term describes Holden’s explanation of meeting Jane, the scene on her porch, and the movie incident?
- Although Holden likes Ernie’s piano playing, what is it that Holden dislikes about Ernie?
- Find a sentence on page 80 that is a good example of Holden’s general confusion about himself, other people, and life.
- In addition to providing a comic interlude, what seems to be the point of the scene with the cab driver, Horwitz?
- Caulfield believes that Ernie is a phony because he pretends to be humble when he bows, but is anything but humble. How has his performing hurt his talent, and what solution does Holden suggest for the problem?
- Although Holden does not like Lillian Simmons and thinks she is another phony, why does he feel sorry for her?
- What dryly humorous observation does Holden make about the naval officer? What literary term is used?
- What literary term could be applied to the nearly two-page diatribe about gloves and galoshes that begins this chapter? The end of it contradicts which previous declaration Holden made?
- Holden is confused and has many ambivalent feelings about sex, but in what respect is the point of view he operates from a moral and ethical one?
- In regard to sex, Holden concludes that he feels sorry for girls. What observation does he make about this?
- Why is Holden unwilling to have sex with the prostitute?
- Since he can easily afford it, why does Holden object to paying the prostitute another $5.00?
- In the confrontation with Maurice and Sunny, why do you suppose Holden still refuses to give up the extra money?
- Does his fantasizing about a bullet wound seem out of character for Holden?
- Point out the discrepancy between Holden’s comments about movies with Sunny and Sally.
- What conclusion does Holden arrive at about suitcases, wealth, and relationships? Does his conclusion about Dick Slagle ceasing to be his roommate seem accurate?
- Talking about Catholics, Holden says, “It’s just like those suitcases I was telling you about, in a way.” In what way are Catholics like suitcases?
- Little children loom large in Holden’s life, especially in this chapter. Who is Little Shirley Bean? Why does the sight of the six-year-old boy with his parents raise Holden’s spirit?
- Why might the song the boy is singing be significant?
- Why, given his personality, might Holden be so upset with the idea of people going to the movies or the theater?
- What is it about the museum of Natural History that Holden likes so much?
- Who is Harris Macklin?
- Holden’s anxieties start to build at the time he begins talking about school, which he says he hates. What else does Holden claim to hat in this chapter? How is he expressing himself to Sally?
- On page 131 Holden says: “I’m in lousy shape.” In doing so he finally admits that he is the one with the problem, not society. Why is Sally Hayes the wrong person to be telling this to?
- At the end of this chapter, he says, “I swear to God I’m a madman.” Is he using this as an expression, or does he believe himself to be emotionally troubled?
- What new observation does Holden make about girls?
- What bothers him about the movie he sees at Radio City?
- What does Holden’s week-long involvement with Boy Scouts indicate?
- Holden’s thought of suicide is now highly exaggerated. What is it?
- Contrast Luce and Holden.
- With all of the things he perceives as Luce’s faults, Holden still hates to see him go. Why?
- On page 150 Holden is pretending again that he has been shot in the gut, and he says, “I was concealing the fact that I was a wounded sonuvabitch.” In what way is Holden really wounded?
- Once again, the Jane Gallagher versus Sally Hayes scenario is set up. What does each girl seem to represent for Holden?
- What figure of speech is used in the following quotation: “It’s not too bad when the sun’s out, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming out”?
- Why does Phoebe put the pillow over her head?
- What does the fact that their family car has a radio in it indicate?
- Is Holden’s reason for hating Pencey Prep a valid one?
- Is his disillusionment with Mr. Spencer understandable?
- It is clear why Holden gets depressed by his schoolmates and even Mr. Spencer, but why is he depressed by the graduate looking for his initials on the door, who, Holden admits, may be a good guy?
- When Phoebe says, “You don’t like anything that’s happening,” she is suggesting that the fault may not be in the school but in Holden. To what extent is she correct?
- Given the context that has been developing, state what is represented by Holden’s desire to catch kids so as to prevent them from falling off a cliff while playing in a field of rye. What could Holden mean by this odd reference?
- On page 179 why does Holden break out crying?
- When we first meet Mr. Antolini, we expect him to be a mouthpiece for the author and to have some special insight into Holden and his problems because of the respect Holden has for his mind. In the following quote by Mr. Antolini, how much of it accurately describes Holden, and how much of it seems to be inaccurate?
“Among other things you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.”
2. A point that is much debated in this story is the significance of Mr. Antolini’s action as he sits on the floor. What point do you suppose is debated?
3. What is the significance of the final scene at Mr. Antolini’s?
- What does Holden not understand about his nausea?
- As Holden walks up Fifth Avenue, what “spooky” thing begins to happen to him? What does this signify? How does he try to prevent these feelings from turning into reality?
- What does he envision as a solution to the problem he has with life and society?
- The obscenities on the wall, first at the school and later in the tomb, signify what for Holden?
- “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall of the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. They fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.” Explain the meaning of the quotation.
- The critical point seems to come for Holden when Phoebe arrives with her suitcase. After they argue, she cries and ignores Holden; he then says he is not going to leave. AT what later point do we see him go from depression to happiness? What brings it on, and how do you account for this change?
- Find a sentence on page 212 that, for the first time, reveals a truth about Holden’s future.
- This chapter is, in a manner of speaking, an epilogue. It brings us back to present time and resolves all the questions—or does it? Has Holden recovered from his nervous breakdown? When he starts his new school, will he do better? Has he learned anything? Do the last two lines have any significance?