top of page

English III: Catcher in the Rye

Group 1

Research Tools

Research Tools

Group 2

Research Tools

Topic 1: 

Topic 2: 

Does Holden’s outlook on the world and struggles in life represent those of teens across the generations? 


Holden Caufield has long been considered the quintessential disaffected teen. The novel shows a teen in crisis, as he struggles to face a multitude of issues, and many have argued that therein the appeal of the book lies.  This assumes that the pressures that teen’s face are quite common and unchanging, and that this is why the book has appealed to so many for so long.  You will be considering if this is true. 


Questions for further consideration:


  • What pressures do teenagers face that are universal? Which are generational?

  • What were the primary sources of teen anxiety in Holden’s time? What are the sources of teen anxiety in our time?

  • What mental illnesses most affected teens in Holden’s time? Which most affect teens in our time?

  • What were the predominant attitudes towards teens in Holden’s times?  What are they in ours?

  • What pressures and obligations did Holden face? What pressures and obligations do you face? How have the pressures and obligations faced by teens changed over the last 70 years?

  • What are the expectations of teens? Now? Then? 

  • How have teens dealt with the difficulties and anxiety of adolescence since the 1950s? Have the ways they cope and interact with the world changed?

Quick Links

Historically, how have society’s rebels influenced culture and thought, and does Holden fit the rebel archetype?


It seems that throughout history, most generations have had a figure who embodied the rebel archetype and who somehow becomes the voice of their generations - a person who was thought to be a representative for the disenfranchised within society.  Historically, the rebels have had significant influence on youth culture in particular and have been widely regarded by older generations as negative influences.  You will be looking at the influence of society’s rebels across generations and considering whether their influences were positive or negative, and you will consider whether Holden fits the archetype for his generation.


Questions for further consideration:

  • How have some of society’s rebels influenced society? What characteristics do they seem to share?

  • What is the predominant culture that the rebel is “counter” to? (tenets of the establishment?)

  • Does Catcher meet the definition of a counter-culture work of art?

  • Is it representative of other counter-culture trends teenagers have embraced?

  • Is it worthy of being considered an example of teen disaffection?

Group 3

Topic 3:

Are there some books teens just shouldn’t read and is this one of them? 


Grown-ups and society try to protect kids and teens from media (books, images, movies, music) that might harm them, but when do teens stop being considered children? What role should adults and society play in determining what teens read and listen to and see? Is Catcher in the Rye objectionable? Was it ever? Where do we draw the line? Who decides? 


Since its publication, this novel has faced censorship and debate and has been banned from several schools’ reading lists.  Many have argued that the text is without merit, while others have said it should be required reading for all teenagers.  You will determine what you believe in regard to the conversation around the novel’s censorship.


Questions for further consideration:


  • What were the reactions to the novel upon first publication, and how have those evolved over time?

  • Should freedom of speech always prevail over censorship?

  • Who should wield the power to determine what is appropriate reading, viewing, and listening for students?

  • What role does the establishment have in determining the value of art or literature? 

bottom of page