Critical Essay Plan

Critical Essay Plan
Task: Choose a task from the following options which are suitable for “The Catcher in the Rye”. Make
sure you have completed a plan with clear ideas and evidence (quotations) before you start writing.
A. Choose a prose work dealing to some extent with the less pleasant side of life. Show how the less
pleasant side of life is portrayed and made real for you by the description of the people and/or places
and/or events. Refer to the text and at least two of: theme, language, structure, setting, character or any
other feature.
B. Choose a novel in which the central character's failure to understand the reality of his situation is an
important feature of the text. Explain how the writer makes you aware of this failure and show how it is
important to your appreciation of the novel as a whole.
Para 1 - Introduction
You need to relate your introduction directly to the question. It needs to be clear from the start of your
writing what you intend to write about. What is the main focus of the task you have chosen?
1. State which novel you are going to be writing about and why it is suitable for the task.
2. Briefly explain what the novel is about.
3. Explain that the author has helped you to understand the novel by successfully using literary
techniques – name examples that are relevant – e.g. first person narrative, characterisation, use
of language, key events, description of key scenes.
Example INTRO – Task B
J.D. Salinger’s novel, “The Catcher in the Rye” features a character who fails to understand the reality of
his situation. Holden Caulfield struggles to make the transition from childhood to adult life and as a result
he has a distorted view of life and the issues he faces. Although he claims to hate “phoney” people the
reader realises throughout the text that Holden does not fit in with society and in fact he has created a
phoney impression of his own life. Salinger’s use of a first person narrative, symbolism and significant
key events allow the reader to get a clear insight into the main character and how his unwillingness to
accept reality has a detrimental effect on his health and his future success within society.
Para 2 – Overview of key events – Relate to the task
Now you need to summarise the main events of the story that are relevant to the task.
Focus on 4 or 5 key events that highlight Holden’s opinions on society and his feelings about life.
Try to clearly illustrate how this progresses from the beginning of the novel to the end.
You DO NOT need to comment on writing techniques or specific scenes used by the author at
this stage.
DO NOT summarise the whole plot – FOCUS on the TASK
Paras 3 to… - Main Body – Analysis & Evaluation - Aim for 5 or 6 PEEL paragraphs.
You now need to go on to discuss the novel in more detail, identifying the techniques and key scenes
included by J.D. Salinger and explaining how they help you to understand how Holden Caulfield
behaves in relation to the task you have chosen.
In each paragraph you need to:
1. Point – Topic Sentence - Make a clear point related to the task.
2. Example – Identify the example (& technique) and support with evidence from text.
3. Explain - What effect does this have – why is it used?
4. Link – How well does the example help you to understand Holden’s character and how
he fits into society?
Remember to start each paragraph with a topic sentence to let the reader know what you are
about to write about.
Example PEEL para – Task A
POINT - The unpleasant element of loneliness and isolation in life is immediately highlighted when
Holden is alone on the hill overlooking the football field while everyone else in the school is enjoying the
game. EVIDENCE - Holden claims not to care when he states “You were supposed to commit suicide or
something if Pencey didn't win" but this example shows – EXPLAIN - that he chooses to isolate himself
from the school community and seems to reject popular activities, claiming he has no interest. This
coincides with Holden’s expulsion form school for “flunking four subjects and not applying myself” and
suggests that although we may feel some sympathy for his loneliness he is often responsible for his own
isolation. LINK - He chooses to withdraw from conventional behaviour and activities throughout the text
as he claims other people are fake or phoney.
KEY EVENTS? Some of the events you may wish to include are:
Holden’s isolation in school and lack of friends – His unwillingness to conform to make friends.
Anger at Stradlater in relation to Jane Gallagher – corrupting her purity/innocence?
His lies on the train to create a false impression of his life.
Loneliness / isolation in New York when he tries to phone his perceived ‘friends’.
His attempts to befriend the taxi driver and ladies who he buys drinks for.
Pathetic attempts to lose his virginity – Sunny and Maurice who beats him up.
His failed date with Sally when he suggests they run away together then becomes aggressive.
Drinking and immature questioning of Carl Luce about sex.
His respect for Mr Antolini (suicide of school pupil) and sudden misunderstanding of affection.
Fondness for childhood memories / symbols: Natural History Museum, ducks in park, carousel,
Phoebe, memories of Allie…
Anger at swear words written in Phoebe’s school.
His reactions to Phoebe challenging him about his behaviour.
Carousel – How does he feel? What does he realise?
Summarise your overall reaction to the text in relation to you CHOSEN TASK
Identify / re-emphasise which aspects of the text were most significant in helping you to
understand the specific focus you have written about. “The most successful…”
Make comment on the most significant themes of the text and how you feel about how Salinger
has communicated his ideas and wider messages.
Can you / the reader relate to the text in today’s society?