5. Choose a novel or short story which explores loss or futility or
Discuss how the writer explores one of these ideas in a way you find
6. Choose a novel in which a main character refuses to accept advice
or to conform to expectations.
Explain the circumstances of the refusal and discuss its importance to
your understanding of the character in the novel as a whole.
7. Choose a novel in which a particular mood is dominant.
Explain how the novelist creates this mood and discuss how it
contributes to your appreciation of the novel as a whole.
8. Choose a novel or short story in which there is a character who is
not only realistic as a person but who has symbolic significance in
the text as a whole.
Show how the writer makes you aware of both aspects of the character.
Characterisation – alienated, cannot
connect with people, “I was depressed as
hell”, apathetic – particularly about his
Symbolism – hunting hat, catcher in the
rye, the fall
Key incident(s) – Allie’s baseball mitt,
crossing the street
 Story
of Holden
 Expulsion from Pencey Prep
 Battle to get someone to listen to him
 His fears about impending adulthood –
symbolised by the fact that half of his head is
covered in grey hair.
 Cherishes innocence and childhood. Can’t even
throw a snowball at a car “it looked so nice and
white.” Symbol of purity/ innocence.
 Key thing in the novel is Holden and his voice.
 Wants reassurance that being adult will be ok.
 Really wants to stop/ pause time – museum
“everything always stayed the same.”
 Wants
to be a protector of innocence/ “the
catcher in the rye”
 Reasons why he hates the adult world – only
adult he trusts, Mr A, has an ulterior motive?
Possible sexual advance?
 Uses the PASSIVE VOICE “I was standing way
up on Thomsen Hill” instead of “I stood on
Thomsen Hill” – CREATES DISTANCE between
Holden and reader. Holden wants to create
this distance. He’s alienated from fencing
team, been expelled from school and feels
distanced from his life as he is experiencing
 “Listen”
– Holden frequently starts sentences
with this word. Shows his desperation for
somebody to listen to him/ help him. Cry for
 “Listen, do you want to go for a walk?” –
FINALLY Phoebe listens to him. She looks
after him.
 “so damn happy” – sees P on the carousel.
Realisation of the journey of life. Cyclical –
goes round and round. Can always get back
to innocence.
 Hunting
hat – emblem of protection. Makes
Holden feel more confident. Cover his grey
hair/ insecurity?
 Wears hat back to front – symbolises the fact
he doesn’t want to be like others/ he is an
 P puts hat on Holden at end of novel – shows
reversal in roles. She puts it on his head the
right way around – shows Holden’s ready to
face up to reality of adulthood? Conventional
life? Realises he has to make sacrifices.
 Holden
tells the reader about Allie’s baseball
glove. Covered in poetry in green ink. Again
shows the link between Holden and Allie –
love of English.
 Finishes
this with the simple sentence “He is
dead now” – present tense – direct, shocking
hit to reader. Shows the immediacy of
Holden’s pain. He still feels grief NOW. The
word “now” suggests Holden can do nothing
in the present to alter this. Allie is dead, he
will always be dead. Holden cannot change
 Poignant
 Touching
 Coming
of age
 The self-destructive character of Holden
 It provokes emotion in the reader
 Bildungsroman – a novel about someone who
grows up. Has some of the same qualities as
a bildungsroman – Holden is dealing with
adolescence and maturity but has not
necessarily changed by the end of the novel.
 Deals with depression/ grief/ reaction to loss
 Failure to accept reality
“The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger is a novel
that deals sensitively with the theme of loss. In
the opening of novel Holden is alienated from
others watching a football game on his own. We
find out he has been expelled from school. Holden
is struggling to cope with death of his brother,
Allie, and the complications of adult life. Holden
spends a few days wandering around New York,
avoiding telling his parents about his expulsion.
Over these days the reader discovers Holden is in
the throws of grief. He is depressed about his life
and shows no regard for his future. The loss of his
brother is effectively revealed through
characterisation, symbolism and key incidents in
the novel.
The characterisation of Holden Caulfield helps to reveal
his feelings of loss in the novel. We first see Holden’s
depression when he is standing on his own “way up on
Thomsen Hill”. He is watching a football game but he
has consciously separated himself from the other
students. This, alongside the fact Holden has been
ostracised by the fencing team for forgetting the kit
for a competition, shows that Holden is finding is
difficult to form relationships with his peers. The
writer characterises Holden effectively by creating a
very convincing voice for his character. Often he uses
the passive voice: “I was standing way up on Thomsen
Hill”. This creates distance between Holden and the
reader. Again, this shows Holden’s difficulty in
relationships. He pushes people away. Holden
frequently repeats himself and uses the same, stock
phrases. For example, many things “depress the hell”
out of him. This reveals how difficult he is finding life
in the wake of his brother, Allie’s, death. The first
person narration and Holden’s realistic voice helps us
to empathise with his character’s extreme reaction to
The symbolism in the novel helps to reveal his feelings of
loss and the process of grief. Holden wears his hunting
hat the wrong way round. This shows his desire to
rebel to get attention from his parents. His parents are
preoccupied with the loss of their son. Holden
desperately wants to be taken care of by them.
Further symbolism is seen in Allie’s baseball glove. This
is covered with poetry. This shows the deep link
between Allie and his brother (through their
appreciation of English) thus intensifying the feelings
of loss he is experiencing. The most important symbol
in the novel is that of the title. Holden wants to be
‘the catcher in the rye’. This shows his desire to
‘catch’ and protect children from danger. This danger
is the ‘fall’ into adulthood and the complex difficulties
of becoming mature. Holden does not want to face up
to a life where he can experience such loss and grief.
He wants to preserve the innocence of childhood, a
time before we experience death and a time before he
lost Allie.
Key incidents in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ explore
loss. Holden talks about his brother Allie’s baseball
mitt. The mitt is covered in poems written in
green ink. Holden adores this mitt and it is one
way he remembers Allie. The poetry on the mitt
helps to establish the relationship and bond
between the brothers. The Caulfield family are all
linked in that they love English. While Holden
criticizes his older brother, D.B., for being a
“prostitute” as he feels he has “sold out” by
writing screenplays for Hollywood; he respects
Allie’s love of poetry reveals his character to be
more sincere, soulful and intellectual. The
baseball mitt itself is used for catching. This links
to the title of the novel and Holden’s desire to
preserve the innocence, fun and games of
childhood by being the ‘catcher in the rye’.
Allie’s baseball is a physical representation of Holden’s
loss. He clings to it, just as he clings to memory of his
brother and as he clings to childhood. Towards the end
of the novel Holden experiences loss in that he loses
his mental stability. He starts to become disorientated
and confused as he crosses the street, “I thought I’d
go down... and nobody would ever see me again.”
Holden is spiralling into depression because of the loss
of Allie. He feels like he is in a free-fall into despair
and adulthood with nobody to support him. His
desperation is clear when he repeats the mantra,
“Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” This
reveals Holden’s lack of control. He repeats this plea
to try to gain control of his anxiety. The fact he talks
to his dead brother shows how raw his loss is and also
perhaps how close to death he feels himself. Holden’s
loss on reality is exemplified in this moment of
 The
ducks in Central Park – what does this
reveal about Holden? This reveals Holden’s
character is still quite childish. Fascination
with small details like a child. Natural
curiosity of child – Holden still has this.
 “partly
frozen and partly not frozen” –
symbolic of the TRANSITION in Holden’s life.
Part child/ part adult. Crucial crossroads just
like the seasons – between Autumn and
 Hopeful symbol? Ducks leave but come back.
LIFE GOES ON. Winter time of death, Spring
time of renewal.
5. Choose a novel in which envy or malice or cruelty plays a significant
Explain how the writer makes you aware of this aspect of the text and
discuss how the writer’s exploration of it enhances your understanding of
the text as a whole.
6. Choose a novel in which a character is influenced by a particular
location or setting.
Explain how the character is influenced by the location or setting and
discuss how this enhances your understanding of the text as a whole.
7. Choose a novel or short story in which there is an act of kindness or
of compassion.
Explain briefly the nature of the act and discuss its importance to your
understanding of the text as a whole.
8. Choose a novel in which the death of a character clarifies an
important theme in the text.
Show how this theme is explored in the novel as a whole and discuss how
the death of the character clarifies the theme.