Catcher in the rye: Culminating Research Activities Topic One Historical information

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CATCHER IN THE RYE: Culminating Research Activities

Topic One - Historical information

You are responsible for finding all the information you can about life in 1949.  Here are some things you might want to think about:  what was it like being a teenager in 1949?  Holden's use of language is very distinct in the novel-- is this the way most teenagers spoke at the time?  How did they dress?  What did they like to listen to?  What was the median income?  What was the median income for people like Holden's parents?  You can include recordings of popular songs, pictures, links, anything you want, as long as it’s connected to life in the late 1940s.

Topic Two - History of the novel

Why did this book have such an impact on Americans of the 20th century and today?  Here are some suggestions:  Look for information on book reviews when it was published in 1951, link interviews with current writers that were affected by Holden and add them to your project.  How did teenagers react to the book when it was first published?  Why was the book banned?  Are there letters readers wrote to the author? See if you can find some reasons. 

Topic Three - What's bothering Holden?

You are responsible for adding the possible psychological reasons for Holden's madman days around Christmas.  Find out about the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, the five stages of grieving and loss, the impact of death on a family, and any other reason you think Holden might be failing out of school and wandering New York City.  You can give Holden your diagnosis and find out how doctors would treat him today.  Would Holden be on medication?

Topic Four - Character analysis

Create a page describing most of the characters in the novel.  Your webpage should include information about Holden, Pheobe, Stradlater, Allie, Ackley, and Mr. Antolini.  It can (and would get a higher grade) if it included information on Maurice, Sunny, Old Spencer, D. B. and Holden's parents.  Write your own details about each character, add pictures if you think they capture a character's physical appearance (hair, height, weight), link descriptions that others have written about any of these characters and include links that you think describe them. For example, create a link from Pheobe to a website that has information about gifted children.

Topic Five - Literary elements                                    

Research all that you can about the literary elements used in the novel and give examples of the following:  foreshadowing, imagery, Salinger's use of metaphor, symbolism, setting (this one should be easy!), irony, tone, point of view, conflict and theme.  You can use what we've discussed in class, cite quotations from the novel and create links from other sources to support your position.

Topic Six - Outside Elements

Salinger mentions a number of other authors and famous literary characters in The Catcher in the Rye, for example Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, Somerset Maughm's Of Human Bondage, Emily Dickinson, Ring Lardner and Gatsby.  Write a brief summary of each author, character or novel mentioned and a reason why Salinger may have included them in the book.  Do these authors tell us something about Holden?  The title of this novel is taken from a poem.  Why?  What is the significance of this poem?  Why do you think Salinger used this? 

Name ________________________________________ Date ________________ Period ____
The Catcher in the Rye: Text-Synthesis Project

Due: ___________________ Worth: 50 summative points

Culminating Project Directions: Read each of the following project descriptions and accompanying examples before selecting the one you will recreate for your text-synthesis project assessment.

Please note that we’ll be writing an focused, research essay on The Catcher in the Rye when we return from break and these are just projects to deepen your understanding and interactions with the text.

OPTION A: An Ode To Allie

An ode is a poem of praise to a person, place, or thing. An ode does not have to rhyme.   Your poem will honor Allie.  Some questions to help you write your poem:

  • What was Allie like?

  • Why is he so important to Holden?

  • Why does Holden feel this way?

  • What might Allie represent or symbolize?

      For example:

      Who were you?

      Smiling, red hair bobbing

      Racing so fast,

                  fast, faster

      Leaving life behind

      while I stumble,


      I needed you, guy.

      You were the best. 


OPTION B: A Poem from Another Character’s Point of View

      Pretend that you are one of the other characters in the book: Phoebe, D.B., Jane,

      Sally, Stradlater, Mr. Spencer, Mrs. Morrow, Sunny, Maurice, the nuns, Carl

      Luce, etc., and write a poem about Holden, describing your feelings and thought about him.

      For example

      Mr. Spencer 

      Why do you struggle so

   in a world where you could do anything, go anywhere?

      You fight ghosts

      facing the wrong direction

      With all the light,

      you only see darkness. 

      Oh Holden – youth is elusive,

      Enjoy your time

      Age creeps up and then like me,

      you come full circle.

      Don’t be empty

      Look inside.

      Be someone – something – anything. 

OPTION C: A Found Poem

      Found poems are created by selecting words, phrases, or quotes from the novel.

Then you will rearrange them in poetic form.  Your aim is to create a poem that captures the mood or essence of the novel.  You may want to provide new insight for the reader.  End your poem by using arranged by and your name since the words are not your own.

      Here is an example 

      I won’t Dance – don’t ask me 

      I didn’t feel like it.

      You want to know the truth?


      It wasn’t anything physical 

      I can’t understand

      How the hell should I know why?

      It was very phony

      I’m too big to dance. 

OPTION D: Book Jacket

The old adage is don’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s how books get sold. However, the notoriously eccentric author, J.D. Salinger scoffed at the idea of allowing a colorful book cover to sell his book; he preferred to think his audience would simply have to read the text themselves to know what was inside. But what if you were to defy the author and take on the challenge of designing an enticing book jacket. Where would you start? Use the following reflection* questions to guide your design:

What's in this book that makes it appealing—that is, what elements or "hooks" will make anyone want to buy it? What does the book stand for, what makes it special, what makes it tick, what is its core? What market and submarket is the book geared to? Articulate those elements and “show” them on the cover. They are what should be reflected in your title and cover art. (It's not a coincidence that this exercise ties in with the elements of a good pitch, which I've heard described as "Who, What, Where, and Why Should I Care.")

*A note on the concept of "reflection." As with good writing, the combination of your title and cover art shows rather than tells. You want to convey some degree of dry information—the book's genre, for example, a bit about the who, what, and where—but the ultimate purpose of the information is to precipitate an emotional response (does this sound familiar? It's also a principle of good writing). Look at book covers, and you'll see an infinite variety of designs.

For example:

OPTION E: Film Poster

Consider the most important aspects of the novel (these will often be the most memorable scenes, symbols, and characters) to depict the film version of the text. Also critical will be the cast—Who would portray our tragic hero (would it be someone famous or an unknown actor?) and fill the roles of the supporting cast? Who would direct this film? What would the “subtitle*” be to promote this film? Create your poster to scale (that is, it would be the size of an actual poster). While laminating it isn’t required, it makes for a “nice touch.” (*This would be the catchy phrase that would embody the mood and tone of the film as well as entice moviegoers.)

OPTION F: Soundtrack

The soundtrack to a film is comprised of music that is meant to accompany a scene, often enhancing a mood or tone of a particular scene. Often times it is used to transition from one scene to the next. There are two types of soundtracks that accompany a movie: the score and the music inspired by the movie. Both have their purpose in either promoting the movie or setting the mood and enhancing the scenes in a film. Like the film poster, you need to consider the most important scenes to illustrate with musical accompaniment. You’ll also need to decide if you’ll be compiling a musical score or a soundtrack which are defined here:

  • The Score

The score is an original piece of music usually performed by an orchestra that is played throughout the movie. It sets the mood and emphasizes important parts of the movie, such as the introduction of the hero, an epic battle, the climax or a car chase. A movie's score sets the mood and the scene. String instruments, for instance, are employed to set viewers on edge as the movie's hero explores a dark hallway. Bright brass and snare drums heighten a heroic scene.

  • The Soundtrack

The movie's soundtrack can also be music inspired by the film and played by contemporary artists. These songs are not played by an orchestra, but they are still strategically placed in the movie to set the mood. Fluffy pop songs, for example, are sprinkled throughout a "chick flick," while an action movie might use hard rock or rap songs.

OPTION G: Holden’s Playlist

Having had the opportunity to study Holden’s character, what sort of music would he listen to? What would be his favorite songs? Why? Not only will you include the titles and artists of the songs in Holden’s playlist, but you must be prepared to defend these selections to the class—why would Holden enjoy these songs? Would it be the music or the message? Requirements: 10 songs (artist/song title) at least a paragraph explanation for each, use of lyrics to explain rationale, and a creative title for the play list. Your selections will show your knowledge of his character. Explain why you are including each of the ten songs with a paragraph of in-depth description as to why you think he would like it, using evidence you used from the themes, symbols, motifs, and situations that Holden and the novel explored.

OPTION H: The Catcher in the Rye—The Interactive Game
Games are frequently used as an important symbol in the text, from early on when Holden’s teacher, Mr. Spencer remarks that, “Life is a game, boy. One you must play according to the rules,” which leads Holden into a reflection about the games played by phonies. Holden also fondly recalls wiling away many of afternoon playing checkers with Jane Gallegar, reminiscing how she always kept all her kings in the back row. Consider this reoccurring symbol in the text, how could a board game be developed for players to experience Holden’s (mis)adventures in Manhattan the weekend after he leaves Pencey Prep. How would players win the game? How could they lose? Use an old board game if you like or fashion one out of a piece of dense cardboard. (You must include a comprehensive set of rules or guidelines to playing the game as well as any additional components, such as playing pieces, cards, etc.)

OPTION I: Holden, Ten Years Later

Write a piece of short fiction in which you join Holden's life ten years after the story ends. Try, as best you can, to replicate Holden's unique voice. Write it in the style of The Catcher in the Rye. Try to use what you know of him from the book along with Holden's state of mind throughout the novel to guide your prediction. Requirements: Title page with title, 4 pages minimum, typed.

OPTION J: Graphic Novel / Comic Book

This option allows the artistic students to use their skills to recreate the story in a graphic novel (i.e. comic book) format. Choose the most important scenes - in your view - and tell the story of The Catcher in the Rye. The quality of your project will be determined by the following: the extent to which your graphic novel includes the entire story of the novel, the quality / effort put into of the artwork, and the inclusion of an introduction in which you explain what you tried to capture in your recreation of the novel (e.g., "I wanted to emphasize the extent to which they reject society and reveal themselves as rebels in the American spirit. I did this because… and showed it by…").

OPTION K: Holden's Scrapbook

Holden’s adolescence took place in the 1950s, before the dawn of the internet and social media. Whereas today he may have a Tumblr, Facebook, or even a Twitter account, back then he would have relied on more ol’ fashioned methods to archive his feelings and achievements. Therefore, you’ll compile a scrapbook of memorabilia that Holden might have collected or come across during the novel. All artifacts must be captioned with where he got it, its significance to him, and the page you found it on. Think of the images that keep recurring in the novel, the places Holden travels to, and anything he collects. This project will be assessed based on the amount of memorabilia collected and its presentation. As a benchmark, expect to get at least ten pieces of memorabilia for your scrapbook.

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