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The 80 Best The Catcher in the Rye Essay Topics You Should Try

catcher in the rye essay topics

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We want to share with you useful “Catcher in the Rye” essay topics. You won’t be bored – our lists are interesting and can help you understand what to write about. All students will find topics that are interesting to them. If you don’t have any idea of what exactly to write about, these “The Catcher in the Rye” essay topics are what you need.

The Catcher in the Rye Main Themes

Before we get to the list of topics, let’s take a look at the main themes discussed in the novel. These themes can give you a better understanding of what you can discuss in your essay.

Hypocrisy. Holden Caulfield often finds the majority of people he interacts with to be “phony,” insincere, and inauthentic. The adults surrounding him seem to have no idea what it means to be honest and manifest their true emotions. He believes his peers are also lacking in genuineness. It is interesting to explore this theme from a psychological point of view. Usually, when people notice something they hate about others, it is something that they don’t like and can’t accept about themselves. You can write about examples when Holden is insincere and lies about his own identity.

Idealistic perception. J.D. Salinger highlights the potent impact that idealizing romantic partners can have. Holden has an unrealistic image of Jane Gallagher and compares every woman to her. No woman can live up to that high standard that exists in Holden’s head. Moreover, even Jane will not match these high standards if he starts speaking to her and knowing her better. That is why he doesn’t call her. It means that he is unable to build healthy relationships while he continues to do so. You can explore this theme to decide whether it is still as relevant to the reality of our modern society as it was at the time the novel was created.

Being caught in between. Being a teenager is one of the most difficult periods in life. J.D. Salinger demonstrates this by writing about Holden’s inability to let go of the values of childhood, such as honest integrity. His desire is to preserve these values in the world of adults. At the same time, he wants to present himself as a mature adult. This inner conflict does not allow the 16-year-old to enjoy life and feel free to show his emotions to other people. Holden is still a kid inside. However, he tries to be someone he is not. This theme is quite popular among renowned authors. You can find a literary piece that examines it to compare it with The Catcher in the Rye.

Unhappiness and psychological disorder. Holden is unhappy and tells the readers about it many times. Nonetheless, it might be hard to believe him at the novel’s beginning. He is from a wealthy family, has no “real” problems, and tends to exaggerate a lot. As the story progresses, the readers can relate to his constant discontent. He thinks about death and suicide. One of the problems of the modern world is that the concept of depression has often been stigmatized. People use this word to describe their bad mood or unlucky day. Those who struggle with this psychological disorder know the real difference between just being in a bad mood and being unable to get out of bed and do something. It might be one of the topics for your research.

The Catcher in the Rye Essay Topics: Compare and Contrast

  1. Compare and contrast the literary device used in “Death of a Salesman” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  2. Compare and contrast “Dead Poets Society” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  3. Compare and contrast the common themes in “Thirteen Reasons Why” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  4. Compare and contrast the protagonists in “Hamlet” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  5. Compare the protagonists from “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Stranger.”
  6. Compare two books by Salinger: “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Slight Rebellion Off Madison.”
  7. Compare and contrast the protagonists in “The Great Gatsby” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  8. Compare and contrast Susanna from “Girl, Interrupted” and Holden from “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  9. Compare “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Into the Wild.”
  10. Compare the theme of alienation described in “Your Paris” by Ted Hughes and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  11. Compare the theme of seeking the meaning of life in “Life of Pi” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  12. Compare two characters from “Rule of the Bone” by Russell Banks and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  13. Compare how the authors of “My Name Is Asher Lev” and “The Catcher in the Rye” define the time period.
  14. Compare the problems of Alan Strang from “Equus” and Holden from “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  15. Compare literary devices used in “House on Mango Street” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  16. Compare and contrast “Ordinary People” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  17. Compare and contrast the writer’s style, characters, and themes in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Catcher in the Rye.”

The Catcher in the Rye Topics: Analytic

  1. Analyze the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” using a psychoanalytic approach.
  2. Analyze five stages of grief in the novel and how Holden Caulfield deals with it.
  3. Analyze the meaning of the human condition in “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  4. Analyze how Holden behaves at school and at home. What about his relationships with teachers and classmates helps us to understand more about Holden’s character?
  5. Analyze Holden from the perspective of a saint or prophet. How does the protagonist point out stupidity and maliciousness of the surrounding world?
  6. Analyze the literary elements that the author has used in “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  7. Analyze the theme of growing up and self-understanding.
  8. Analyze the novel from the perspective of Bildungsroman.
  9. Think about situations from Holden’s present and past that make him feel lonely and alienated. Why is it hard for him to connect with people?
  10. Pick a moment from the novel and tell how one single moment can influence the whole story.
  11. How does Holden build relationships with people? What kinds of relationships does he have? Why does Holden strive for intimacy with other people?
  12. Analyze the novel from a psychological perspective. What moments reveal Holden’s psychological problems and character traits?
  13. How are themes of alienation and loneliness presented in “The Catcher in the Rye”?
  14. What problems from “The Catcher in the Rye” are still relevant today? Tell about social and cultural problems that were highlighted in the story.
  15. Analyze how Holden’s language and the way he organizes thoughts influence the overall story.
  16. Analyze the statement “all people wear masks to fit the society” in the context of the novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  17. Why does Holden love the Museum of Natural History?
  18. Analyze Salinger’s writing style in his novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  19. Analyze Holden’s life as a struggle. Which of his efforts paid off? How does his struggle contribute to the story?
  20. Analyze Holden’s relationships with women and patterns he uses in relationships with them.

The Catcher in the Rye Essay Topics: Expository

  1. Explain the meaning of the red hunting hat in “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  2. Explore the theme of rebellion in “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  3. Can the book be advised as a summer reading book for the 9th grade?
  4. Show how the American experience is presented in “The Catcher in the Rye” and compare it to any piece of American literature or movie.
  5. Discuss the following symbols: the ducks, the carousel, and the baseball mitt.
  6. Is Holden honest enough with himself? Does he fully understand who he is?
  7. Turn your creativity on and think about what has happened between the scene where Holden stops telling the story and the scene where we find out that Holden is in the hospital.
  8. What does the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” tell about human nature? Have you ever experienced or seen the same moments in your life?
  9. What is clinical depression? Can it be related to Holden?
  10. Explore how the American dream is explored in the novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  11. Discuss how Salinger uses symbols in his novel “The Catcher in the Rye.” What are their meaning and significance? How do symbols help the reader understand Holden?

The Catcher in the Rye Essay Topics: Argumentative

  1. Does Mr. Antolini in “The Catcher in the Rye” give good advice for modern teenagers?
  2. Describe the deeper meaning of the novel “The Catcher in the Rye.” What does the story teach the reader?
  3. Is Holden an insane person? Or is he a normal person that lives in an insane world? Why?
  4. Can Holden be considered a tragic hero? How do the features of tragedy influence the novel’s outcome?
  5. What do you feel about Holden’s character? Do you sympathize with him? Why?
  6. Is the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” based on one literary element?
  7. Is Holden a sociopath? Does he have symptoms?
  8. Do all of Holden’s problems come from him being a spoiled child?
  9. Can Holden be considered as an anti-hero?
  10. What is the overall message of “The Catcher in the Rye”?
  11. Is “The Catcher in the Rye” a classic story? Why?
  12. Can Holden be considered a static or dynamic character? What features does he have?
  13. Explain why “The Catcher in the Rye” should be taught at school.
  14. Is “The Catcher in the Rye” a novel about social protest? What aspects of society does Salinger criticize?
  15. What does Holden think about innocence?
  16. Agree or disagree with the following critique: “Holden doesn’t develop throughout the novel.” Explain your thoughts.
  17. What is the significance of the red hunter’s hat that Holden wears?

The Catcher in the Rye Essay Topics: Critical

  1. How does Holden characterize himself? Describe whether he is as perfect as he thinks.
  2. How is alcoholism represented in the novel? What influence does it have?
  3. How does Holden contradict himself? Pick three contradictory aspects and perceptions.
  4. Imagine that you are studying in Holden’s school and you want to persuade him that people around are not phony.
  5. What psychological problems does Holden suffer from? What diagnosis can you give him?
  6. How can the quote “no garden is without its weeds” be related to “The Catcher in the Rye”?
  7. What role does sexuality play in the novel? How does Holden’s views on sexuality influence his character?
  8. What is Holden’s point of view on adulthood and adolescence? To which side does he belong? Can it be stated that he has gotten stuck between two worlds?
  9. Think about the events that took place in the novel. Why does the novel unfold in such a way?
  10. The whole novel is written in the first person. Can we trust Holden’s point of view on situations and other people?
  11. What universal themes for adolescents does the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” cover?
  12. Why has Salinger written “The Catcher in the Rye”?
  13. Critically analyze the quote “you won’t be able to live a good life without trust” in the context of the novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  14. Critically approach what Holden tells the reader and what he says in dialogues with other people.
  15. What did Holden mean by saying, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life,” at the beginning of Chapter Three?
  16. Why was the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” banned for a long time?

Facts About “The Catcher in the Rye”

  1. Salinger wrote his small book for a long time – over almost 10 years. The author himself calls Holden’s story a novel, but the work is more like a short story, as there are not too many characters and events cover a short period of time. In addition, while working on the book, Salinger wrote a number of stories which somehow became part of “The Catcher in the Rye.”
  2. The character Holden Caulfield appeared in some of Salinger’s stories a few years before the release of “The Catcher in the Rye.” He is the main character of the stories “Slight Rebellion off Madison” and “I’m Crazy.” In 1949, two years before the first publication of the book, Salinger withdrew his manuscript from The New Yorker, which also included Caulfield.
  3. Salinger filled “The Catcher in the Rye” with facts from his personal life. A likeness of the writer can be found in Holden’s elder brother, D. B. – a writer who served in the war. Salinger himself took part in the landing of the allies in Normandy, participated in the liberation of several concentration camps, and after the war, was treated in a hospital for a nervous breakdown.
  4. Holden Caulfield often speaks of solitude. All the time he wants to escape, hide, live in a village far away, meet a “deaf-mute” girl and marry her. Salinger was also prone to retreat – after the publication of the book, he began to seriously think about moving from New York. In 1955, the 36-year-old writer married 19-year-old Claire Davis, and they moved to Cornish, New Hampshire.
  5. After the release, “The Catcher in the Rye” quickly gained popularity among young people, although it was focused on a more mature reader. However, due to Salinger’s depressive writing style and quite frequent use of profanity, the book became the most prohibited book in US schools and libraries from 1961 to 1982.

Why Is The Catcher in the Rye Controversial?

Most students enjoy reading the J.D. Salinger novel. However, there were times when it was banned or required students to get parental permission before reading. What is so controversial about it, then? Consider the following facts to help you write a brilliant essay.

In the past, people criticized the novel because of its offensive language and content. Teachers and parents were against children reading it because it contains sexual content (the episode with a pimp and a prostitute, for example), violence (when Holden lets Stradlater beat him up), and drug and alcohol abuse (an unhealthy way to escape problems that Holden often chooses). Recently, some also highlighted that the novel might encourage teenage estrangement, which can lead to high-school shootings. Despite these facts, it is still considered one of the treasures of American literature.

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