From a mental institution, where he is receiving treatment, Holden Caulfield recounts the two day period after he is kicked out of school.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
11th Grade Short Story 1250L
Passage Summary: In John Updike’s short story “A&P,” a cashier describes three teenage girls who come into a grocery store in only their bathing suits during the more conservative 1960s.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this short story before students begin reading “The Catcher in the Rye,” in order to analyze how tone and characterization help shape narratives that are in first-person perspective. Ask students to analyze Sammy’s thoughts and actions in “A&P,” and how they influence our understanding of the story. As students read “The Catcher in the Rye,” bring attention to the fact that they are reading a first-person narrative and have them consider how Holden Caulfield's character will also shape their understanding of the story.
8th Grade Fiction 570L
Excerpt from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Passage Summary: In this excerpt from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a young boy feels left out at his new school.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this text after they finish Chapter 6, when Holden gets into an altercation with Stradlater, to help them analyze how tension and isolation is developed between characters. Why do both Stephen and Holden feel out of place at their schools? How does this isolation impact their social relationships. What factors make Stephen and Holden different from those around them?
10th Grade Informational Text 1270L
Teenage Brains Are Malleable And Vulnerable, Researchers Say
Passage Summary: “Teenage Brains Are Malleable And Vulnerable, Researchers Say” discusses how the teenage brain responds to potential rewards and consequent impacts on decision making.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this text after they finish Chapter 7, to provide them with a theoretical text to help them analyze Holden’s actions and motivations. Ask students to discuss the risky behavior that Holden engages in and how, according to Hamilton’s article, it might be related to his brain development as an adolescent. How much of Holden’s behavior do students think is due to his age and brain development? How does his behavior compare to the behavior of his fellow adolescent classmates?
8th Grade Poem
At A Window
Passage Summary: In this poem, a desperate speaker begs the gods to deliver someone to love.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this poem after they finish Chapter 10, and ask them to compare Holden’s desire for company with the speaker’s need for love in “At a Window.” How do both texts convey the characters’ desperation for companionship? How do people respond to Holden’s persisting requests to get a drink together? How does this affect him?
11th Grade Fiction 1100L
Excerpt from Sister Carrie
Passage Summary: In this excerpt from Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, a young girl takes the train from the country to the big city.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this text after students finish reading Chapter 14, in order to facilitate a cross text analysis on adolescent independence. Ask them to discuss the different expectations that Sister Carrie and Holden have when they decide to travel to big cities. How are both characters’ innocence and naivety emphasized through their thoughts and actions? Ask students to consider how Holden experiences in New York City compare to his expectations. How does this affect his already fragile mental state?
10th Grade Poem
My Lost Youth
Passage Summary: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was an American poet and educator. In his poem “My Lost Youth,” the narrator reflects upon his boyhood near the sea, recalling it with nostalgia and painting a picture of beauty.
When and How to Pair: Introduce this poem after students finish reading Chapter 17 to provide them with an alternative perspective on the values of youth, in order to analyze character motivations. How do Holden’s views on youth compare to the speaker’s views in the poem? How does the speaker in “My Lost Youth” attempt to revisit his youth? How does this compare to Holden’s desires to preserve youth and innocence? In what ways do students consider Holden youthful and innocent?
10th Grade Speech 1090L
Depression, The Secret We Share
Passage Summary: In the speech “Depression, The Secret We Share,” Andrew Solomon describes his experiences with depression and why some people are more resilient with the illness than others.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this text after they finish Chapter 22, to provide them with information on depression and the effects it can have on a person. How do Andrew Solomon’s experiences with depression compare to Holden’s feelings of sadness and hopelessness? What evidence would students use from the text to argue whether or not they believe Holden is struggling with depression in “The Catcher in the Rye”?
12th Grade Poem
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
Passage Summary: In Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” a speaker describes the loss of something internal that affects them deeply.
When and How to Pair: Have students read this poem after they finish “The Catcher in the Rye,” in order to compare Holden’s sense of loss with the speaker’s loss in the poem. How does Holden’s behavior in the final chapters of the book indicate that he feels he has lost something essential? What do students think Holden has lost? How does this compare to the lost described by the speaker in “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”?