You are on page 1of 2

The Catcher in the Rye essay topics

1. Every setback is an opportunity for a comeback. Apply this

quote to Holdens life. Choose three events from Holdens life that you
would identify as setbacks. These events can occur in his past or
during the three days after he leaves Pencey Prep. Explain how these
events are opportunities for Holdens comeback. For each setback,
provide a quote to support your choice.
2. Most people have vivid memories of certain events from their
childhood or adolescence. Choose three vivid memories from Holdens
life and explain their relevance. The events must occur in his past. Why
did he choose to share these particular memories with his audience?
What is their importance to his life? How do they make Holden who
he currently is? For each memory, provide a quote to support your
3. Salinger weaves a variety of symbols into The Catcher in the Rye,
including (but not limited to) the red hunting hat, the ducks in Central
Park, and Allies mitt. Select and analyze three symbols that Salinger
uses in the book. Explain how Salinger develops these (objects) as a
symbol throughout the story. Discuss the meaning and significance of
the symbols and explore their contribution to the overall message of
the novel.
4. Holden narrates the story of The Catcher in the Rye while he is
recovering from his breakdown. Do you think the promise of
recovery that Holden experiences as he watches the carousel
at the end of the novel has been fulfilled? Specifically, has
Holden gained a more mature perspective on the events that
he narrates? Give three reasons why.
5. Holden often behaves like a prophet or a saint, pointing out the
phoniness and wickedness in the world around him. Is Holden as
perfect as he wants to be? Are there instances where he is phony and
full of hypocrisy? Consider three moments in the novel. What do
these moments reveal about his character and his problem(s)?
6. Discuss the novel as a coming-of-age story. How does Holdens
character change during the course of the novel? What does the
reader, Holden, or both learn about life? Give three examples to
support your answer.
7. In a well-written essay examine Holdens behavior and relationships at
school and at home to determine what is wrong with him. Is Holden
an insane person in a sane world, or is he a sane person in an insane
world? What are the criteria for insanity or sanity? How does his world
and Holden reflect the criterion as you define them? Support your
ideas with at least three examples.

8. It seems as if Holden is searching for something throughout the course

of the novel. Some might argue that he is trying to find comfort and
love from others. Using three examples from the text, state and
defend your view of what Holden was searching for and what
might have given him true peace and comfort.
9. Many novels and plays focus on individuals involved in a struggle to

find themselves or to seek a purpose in life. Sometimes the effort pays

off; sometimes it does not. Considering three moments or events
from the novel, write an essay in which you explain Holdens search or
struggle throughout the novel, assess to what extent it succeeds, and
analyze how it contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.