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As the resident artist at EcoHealth, I pen verse these days inspired by the specter of future pandemics; for my dissertation at Amerika-Institut of LMU München, where I edit a weekly circular on poetry, I'm anatomizing the prosody of E. A. Robinson's sonnets—I also teach English, tutor composition, and lead a literary circle.

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12 October 2016: Amerikahaus Literary Circle

Discussion Questions for
J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye


1.  Let's begin—as we always do—with a summation of your impressions:  How did you enjoy the novel?

2.  How effective is Holden's first-person narrative?

3.  Many of the idioms and much of the slang have lost their currency since the novel's initial publication in 1951.  Consider these and their meanings:  "old," "phony," "give her the time," "the can," "flit," " to chew the fat," "snowing," "crumb-bum"/"crumby," "that killed me".  What other elements of anachronistic language did you notice?

4.  Though some speech patterns in English have undoubtedly changed over the intervening decades, there are also timeless qualities to the conversations (like the chitchat of New York cabbies) that smacked of verisimilitude.  What were they?

5.  What role in the novel do the ducks wintering in Central Park serve?

6.  Holden seems, at turns, both desperately lonely as well as completely misanthropic.  What is the net effect of this disparateness on his interactions with the other characters?

7.  What are Holden's relationships like with his siblings—D. B., Allie, and Phoebe—and parents?

8.  Which episodes of the novel left their deepest impression on you as a reader?

9.  How does the novel end?

10.  What is the meaning of the title?

11.  What elements of the novel might have led it to be banned in some communities in the United States, and what elements are those that render it as an American classic?

12.  Manhattan is often thought of as the most interesting "character" in the novel.  How is America's largest city portrayed?



Upcoming Discussions

9 November 2016:  Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

14 December 2016:  The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro

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