Historical context | Cultural perception of women | J.D. Salinger | Catcher's Influence

To gain a better understanding of Catcher in the Rye, explore the resources below to establish background knowledge about the historical, cultural, and psychological forces that shape both Holden Caufield and the author who created him.

Historical context

How was the critical reception of the novel illustrative of the time period?
What pressures specific to the time period influenced Holden? How were people supposed to act?
Explain the growth of consumer culture in the post-war era. How is this reflected in the novel?
What, if any, support would have helped Holden to become a well-adjusted teen?
How do you think the Cold War influenced Holden's culture?
Is Holden an early example of the "Counter-Culture Cycle"? Why/why not?

Cultural perception of women

How was the role of women in society in transition during post-war period?
Describe the ideal woman according to Hollywood.
What contrasting media images of femininity did the public receive during the post-war era?
How might these images have affect Holden's perception of romantic interests?

J.D. Salinger

How might World War II have affected J.D. Salinger and his writing?
Describe Salinger's lifestyle.
What is ironic about the author's own son, Matt Salinger?
How does Salinger's biography contribute to an understanding of Holden Caufield?
Why isn't there a movie version of Catcher in the Rye?
How might Salinger's relationships have affected his novel?

Catcher's Influence

What lasting influence has The Catcher in the Rye had on American culture?
What other examples of the "Holden" archetype have you seen in modern media?
What trends do you see in the types of people who are drawn to the novel? Why could this be?
Why do you think The Catcher in the Rye is so constantly referenced? Why does it hold such a central role in our culture? Is this role deserved?

Parodies and Psychology

Why is The Catcher in the Rye so often parodied?
What do Catcher parodies share?
Write your own Catcher parody (a paragraph or two is plenty) about a topic relevant to the life of a New Canaan High School student.
What does the existence of so many Catcher parodies suggest about the changing perception of the novel?
Is Holden suffering from a psychological problem as some critics argue, or is he just a typical teenager? If the former, what? If the latter, how? How do the parodies affect your opinion of this question?
Webquest source Mrs. Magnan's English Class Catcher in the Rye web quest