Prose Fiction questions. 5. Choose a novel or short story which explores loss or futility or failure. Discuss how the writer explores one of these ideas in a way you find effective. 6. Choose a novel in which a main character refuses to accept advice or to conform to expectations.
5. Choose a novel or short story which explores loss or futility or failure.
Discuss how the writer explores one of these ideas in a way you find effective.
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.
“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 loss.
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 breakdown.
5. Choose a novel in which envy or malice or cruelty plays a significant part.
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.