Characterization, Theme, Setting, Symbolism, and Plot: The Catcher in the Rye

Now that you have completed Catcher, let’s critically analyze the novel. Please respond to one problem from each of the five areas (Characterization, Theme, Setting, Symbolism, and Plot Ending). You must respond to five problems collectively. Make sure your answers are carefully thought out, sufficiently evidenced, in complete sentences, and properly edited. After you post your responses, review two or more of your peers’ threads and indicate whether you agree or disagree with any of their responses and why. You may also provide one or more syntax related suggestions on how to improve their work.


1. Who is Phoebe? How does Holden view her, and what does she mean to him? How has Salinger constructed Phoebe’s character in this novel; what does she represent? Please thoroughly explain your interpretation. Why does Phoebe become upset with Holden?

2. Who is Mr. Antolini? On page 187, he discusses a “fall.” Paraphrase the passage and explain to what “fall” he is referring?


3. What would Holden like to be? What is his reasoning behind this ambition? Does this ambition define him? If so, how? Does it define the story’s theme or a recurring motif within the novel? If so, how?

4. What is the underlying theme of Catcher?


5. How does Holden describe the Natural History Museum? Why does he care for that place so much? What does the museum signify?

6. While he is in the Pharaoh’s tomb, everything is momentarily peaceful, but then he comes across a “Fuck You” written on the wall in red crayon. What is the significance of this inscription within the story and on a socio-political scale? Why do you think Salinger had the “Fuck You” written on the museum wall in the Pharaoh’s tomb? In red crayon?


7. On page 154, he begins to picture his own death. What is the cause of his death? What does he picture his parents doing, and what does that say about him? What is the “only good part”? Why?

8. Why does Holden continuously state, “Allie, don’t let me disappear”? By calling out to Allie, how is Holden viewing his brother?

9. Why does Holden have a deaf/mute fantasy? What is the underlying psychological implication of such a fantasy?

10. Why is Holden so fascinated with mummies? What could they possibly represent in this story?


11. At the end of the novel, Holden states, “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. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.” What do you think he means by this conclusion? What do you think Salinger meant by this revelatory statement? Is it strategically placed according to the plot line?

12. How do you interpret the following statement by Holden Caulfield: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”? Where is this passage located? Again, is it strategically placed according to the plot?

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