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Catcher in the Rye Unit


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Catcher in the Rye Unit Guide and Handouts : (See Handouts & Helps section for updated lessons for students)
The Catcher in the Rye Unit Guide
English 5-6
Mr. Coia

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
–Holden Caulfield

Prepare yourself for Holden Caulfield and the novel , The Catcher in the Rye. Holden is probably one of the most rebellious, cynical, and disturbed characters you will meet in English class. Yet, you may feel strangely connected to this troubled young man. You may, perhaps, do what countless other readers have done in the past fifty years: you may see remnants of Holden Caulfield in yourself.

Assignment Overview:

Vocabulary work: 30 points
Short Answers: 60 points
Showcase Paper: 50 points
Writing Portfolio: 100 points
Exam: 60 points
Catcher in Culture: 20 points (extra credit)

Showcase Paper
You will display your knowledge and inquisitiveness of the novel in this Showcase paper that allows you to discuss something important to you regarding The Catcher in the Rye. You may write on a topic of your choice; I applaud you for choosing your own. However, here are some you may use: a symbol or two from the novel, phoniness in the novel, significance of the title (this is an important one), or see a few more topics I’ve included in this packet. Be sure you use the Showcase format for this paper. It’s been awhile, so go online to Handouts section to refresh your memory. I will not accept papers not in this format. Due Tuesday, 4/29.

Writing Portfolio
Throughout the novel, Holden reads and writes several pieces of work from and to friends and family. You task is to collect these pieces into a portfolio. You will create these pieces of writing in the style that stays true to the novel. This is a creative writing piece, as well as a way to get involved in the life of Holden Caulfield. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • D.B.’s story, “The Secret Goldfish.” [page 2]
  • Spenser’s note to Holden [ pages 3, 7]
  • Thurmer’s note to the Caulfields (business letter format) [page 8]
  • Holden’s Egyptian essay [pages 11, 12]
  • Holden’s essay for Stradlater [pages 28, 34, 38]
  • 2 poems from Allie’s mitt (these must be original) [page 38]
  • Letter to Phoebe from Holden (at the end of novel)
  • Acrostic poem for Holden Caulfield (write in first or third person).

The page numbers in brackets refer to where the writing is mentioned in the story. The novel will give you a starting point as to how to begin. Again, you are writing in the voice and style of another. This will be challenging for you if you haven’t done this before. With the exception of Spenser’s note, all work must be typed. Include a title page, a table of contents, and anything else that displays your understanding of the work. You will be graded on how well this collection shows your understanding of the novel, creativity of the writer, and the care and effort you went through to write.


Catcher in Culture
If you are interested to see how this novel affected culture, you may choose to complete this optional assignment. Your task is to show a reference or connection to Catcher in the Rye from culture today. This can be in the form of a film clip that references Holden, a song, a cartoon, or a news clipping that makes such a connection. You will present it to class on your assigned day. Please, no Salinger biographies copied from the internet. 20 points (extra credit) {see examples}

SHORT ANSWER QUESTIONS - The Catcher in the Rye
Chapters 1-4

1. Who is Holden Caulfield?
2. Where is Holden as he narrates the story?
3. Why wasn't Holden at the big football game?
4. Why wouldn't Holden be back to Pencey after Christmas vacation?
5. What "dirty trick" did Mr. Spencer pull on Holden?
6. Who was Robert Ackley?
7. Who was Stradlater?
8. Identify Jane Gallagher.
9. Why doesn't Holden go down to see Jane?

Chapters 5-9

1. About what did Holden write Stradlater's composition?
2. Why did Holden tear up the composition he had written for Stradlater?
3. Why did Stradlater hit Holden?
4. Where did Holden decide to go?
5. Who did Holden meet on his train ride? Why did Holden lie to her about Ernie?

Chapters 10-13

1. Who is Phoebe?
2. Identify Bernice, Marty and Laverne.
3. Describe Holden's relationship with Jane Gallagher.
4. Why did Holden have to leave Ernie's?
5. What do we learn about Holden from his diversion about his gloves being stolen at Pencey?
6. What was the "big mess" Holden got into when he got back to the hotel after being at Ernie's?

Chapters 14-17

1. Why did Maurice hit Holden?
2. Holden said he felt like committing suicide. Why didn't he?
3. Identify Sally Hayes.
4. Why did Holden check out of the hotel, and where did he go?
5. Who did Holden meet at the "little sandwich bar" after he locked his bags at the station? What did they talk about?
6. What record did Holden get for Phoebe? Why?
7. What made Holden "not so depressed anymore" on his way to the record store?
8. Why didn't Holden like actors?
9. Why did Holden like the museum so much?
10. What did Holden think of "George something--"?
11. How did Holden's feelings for Sally change from the beginning of the date to the end?

Chapters 18-21

1. What did Holden think of the show at Radio City?
2. Why did Holden call Carl Luce even though he didn't like him much?
3. What did Holden and Luce discuss?
4. Why did Holden go home so early (before Wednesday)?
5. What was Phoebe's reaction when she first saw Holden? What was her reaction when she found out that he had been expelled?

Chapters 22-26

1. What was Holden's reply when Phoebe asked him why he "got the ax again"?
2. Identify James Castle.
3. Why did Holden go to Mr. Antolini's house?
4. Why did Holden leave Mr. Antolini's home before morning?
5. What advice did Mr. Antolini give Holden?
6. How did Phoebe surprise Holden? What was Holden's reaction?
7. Why did Holden sit on the bench in the rain even though it was coming down in buckets?
8. How did Holden explain his catcher in the rye daydream?
Ideas for a Showcase Paper or for further study

1. Explain how J.D. Salinger's using Holden as the narrator affects our understanding of the events in The Catcher in the Rye.
2. If you were to rewrite The Catcher in the Rye as a play, where would you start and end each chapter? Explain why.
3. What are the conflicts in the story? Are they resolved by the end of the story? If so, how? If not, why not?
4. What is the setting of the story? How does the setting contribute to ideas presented in the story?
5. Who are the people Holden likes in the story? Why does he like them?

6. Describe Holden's relationship with Phoebe.
7. Are Holden's actions believably motivated? Explain why or why not.
8. What is the problem with Holden's life?
9. Characterize J.D. Salinger's style of writing. How does it contribute to the value of the novel?
10. Holden often says he is going to call someone, but he doesn't do it because he isn't in the
mood. What could these uncompleted calls symbolize?
11. Why can Holden honestly communicate with Phoebe when he cannot with anyone else?
12. What does Holden have against the movies?
13. Explain how the title relates to the events of the novel and the themes of The Catcher in
the Rye.
14. Compare and contrast Jane Gallagher and Sally Hayes.
15. Compare and contrast Holden's real world with his fantasy world.
16. Are the characters in The Catcher in the Rye stereotypes? If so, explain why J.D. Salinger
used stereotypes. If not, explain how the characters merit individuality.
17. Why does Holden keep thinking about Jane Gallagher?
18. Why does Holden want to know about the ducks in Central Park?
19. Why did Holden start to cry when Phoebe gave him her Christmas money?
20. What effect did Allie's death have on Holden?
21. Psychoanalyze Holden. What is at the root of his problems?
22. Why can't anyone help Holden?
23. For what was Holden looking during his four-day "vacation"?
24. What kinds of books did Holden like? Why?
25. Discuss the importance and the role of these characters in The Catcher in the Rye: Mr.
Spencer, Stradlater, Jane Gallagher, Allie, Ernie's mother, Lillian Simmons, Sunny, Sally
Hayes, Maurice, the nuns, Carl Luce James Castle, and Mr. Antolini.
26. Explain the symbolic importance of the broken record, the ducks, Grand Central Station,
and the hunting hat.

Critical/Personal Response
27. Is Holden a phony?
28. In Chapter 22, Holden asks, "How would you know you weren't being a phony?"
Why would Holden think this would be a problem for someone?
29. Was Holden a coward?
30. Do you think the sibling relationship between Holden and Phoebe is realistic? Explain why
or why not.
31. Holden thinks most people are a pain in the neck. Is Holden a pain in the neck, too?
32. Is Holden a sympathetic character? (Do we sympathize with him?)
33. Why do you suppose Phoebe decided to go with Holden and not return to school?
The Catcher in the Rye Extra Discussion Questions page 3
34. Is Holden "normal"? Do you think other students at Pencey felt the same way he did?

Acrostic Poem example by Kristin Martin

His emotions towards people

Overthrow the

Lust he has.


Enclosed his mind

Never revealed until he


Collapses from the pressure of this world

Allowing to,

Ultimately, end his

Life. The lack of support from

Friends and people he meets

Initiate the beginning of the

End, though his

Love for children and imaginations of

Defending them, will save his life.

Descriptive Essay
English class
Ward Stradlater
A Glove to Catch With

My brother Billy’s baseball glove lies quietly on our chiffonier in the corner of our shared bedroom. I have the top two drawers, as well as the top bunk. Dust has settled on the mitt due to a season of lonely retirement. I pick it up and feel the smooth, cold leather, and I can smell the mild grass and dirt smell ingrained into the body. The tips of the fingers and pocket are worn and floppy like an elephant’s ear, telling of years of countless catches in the backyard.

I put the glove on my right hand, and it feels awkward. I haven’t put a glove on the wrong hand since that time at school when all the right-handed gloves were taken and I had to use the one left over. I caught just fine, but I couldn’t throw the ball for anything. Billy said that I looked like a girl trying to lob the ball to him, and he thought that was so funny. I was so mad at him for that. They were my friends we were playing with that day. When I think about that, the game, the glove, the laughing, I get a little depressed.

I open up Billy’s glove and flapped my hand open and closed to make the glove talk like a faded, brown puppet on that one kid’s show. The knots in the tied leather straps on the fingers look like eyes and a nose. Gary the Glove. Manny the Mitt. I make the glove talk, telling Billy that the mitt is eager to play again. It wants to catch things again.
I take the glove off and open it like a book to read the secret poems inside. Written in green ink (from a marker borrowed from Mr. Andersen, the art teacher), these poems remind Billy that

Catching in the sun
Is pretty fun
Open up your eyes
Score one for the guys
Lift your glove in the air
Their ups at bat will disappear

Allie wrote that one in school sometime, and he thought reading it aloud would make the time in the outfield fly by. I told him it was stupid and all, especially the part about scoring one for the guys. How do you score a run for your team while in the outfield? He never answered that question.

I toss the glove back on the bureau, almost knocking over the picture of me and Billy taken during that baseball tournament. My arm is around him, and his arm is around me. Billy is, of course, wearing the glove and it rests on my shoulder, as if he caught me in it.

The glove on the dresser closes and returns to its original form, almost as if it has a memory of its own.


The Catcher in the Rye
Post-Reading Activity

English 5-6
Mr. Coia

1. After reading the novel, which of the following best describes how you feel: angry, awed, amazed, baffled, disgusted, disturbed, dissatisfied, irritated, joyous, uneasy, untouched, sad?

Elaborate on your answer.

2. Complete any four of the following statements with a minimum of three additional sentences each, reacting to what you have read.

a. If I were in this story, I would/wouldn’t have…
b. I really admire the character of ____________ because…
c. I realized…
d. I can’t really understand…
e. I did/didn’t like the way…
f. The character of ___________ reminds me of myself when…
g. I know the feeling of….
h. I begin to think of…
i. The biggest thing that the character of ___________ learned in this story was…
j. The most important lesson that I, the reader, learned in this story was…

3. Which of the following descriptive terms makes you think of one of the characters in the story or novel we just read: lonely, angry, helpless, uncaring, helpful, wise, responsible, unselfish?

Describe the character and explain why you think this character feels or personifies this emotion.


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