The Catcher in the Rye
1. J. D. Salinger was in the first wave of soldiers landing on Normandy Beach in WWII; and though not a combat soldier, he lived through some of the bloodliest and deadliest fighting in the European Theater. He spent time in the hospital after the war with what we would call PTSD today–a condition that he seems to suffered from the rest of his life. He carried Holden Caulfield with him everywhere he went as he typed even in foxholes on the manuscript of what became The Catcher in the Rye. Biographers Shields and Salerno argued that this novel was actually the war novel Salinger said no one would ever be honest enough to write. Apparently, they saw the 16-year-old Caulfield as someone suffering from a kind PTSD, perhaps exposed to too much of some poisonous aspect of life.
A. Discuss two specific incidents that show Caulfield, and explain what he is suffering from.
2. The title comes from Holden’s idea that he is in a field of rye where there are multitudes of playing children who are in danger of falling off the cliff and he, wearing his catcher’s mitt, is the only person capable of “catching” them and saving them.
A. Discuss the specific characters in the book that Holden feels a need to save, and explain what it is exactly that Holden believes these characters need to be saved from.
B. Tell what messages you think Salinger is conveying and why you think the book is still one of the most popular of all times.