The Catcher in the Rye: Chapters 17-21

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12226

You may be a bit young but perhaps you've had life experiences that have really affected you. Surviving a war would certainly have an impact on your life. Examine how WWII affected Salinger's writing!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


How do you think war affects a soldier?

If you missed a chapter or want a refresher, catch the previous Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

So far, you've followed Holden Caulfield's exploits over a day-and-a-half, one weekend late in December in the late 1940s.

  • What has shocked you about Caulfield's adventures so far?

In your notes, write a paragraph or two about the events or situations that have surprised you and why they are unexpected. Also, note any emotional reactions you have had to these events as well.

In this lesson, you will read about the latter half of Caulfield's Sunday. In these chapters, Caulfield reveals that his older brother, D.B., fought in World War II. The author, J.D. Salinger, as you may recall from the first Related Lesson in this series (right-hand sidebar), also fought in World War II. This event had profound effects on Salinger's writing style. To learn more about how Salinger's war experiences affected his writing, watch the following two excerpts from the PBS series, American Masters.

As you watch the first film clip, answer the following questions:

  • What was Salinger's role in World War II?
  • How was Salinger's occupation in the war different from the typical infantryman?
  • What is special about Salinger's bond with "The Four Musketeers"?

Watch Salinger's Army Intelligence Work in World War II (PBSVIDEO):

Once you've answered the questions, move on to the second film clip and answer the following questions:

  • How did Salinger's experiences in World War II affect his writing?
  • How did Salinger's ancestry affect the way in which he perceived the events of World War II?

Watch The Impact of World War II on Salinger's Writing (PBSVIDEO):

When you have watched both clips and answered the questions, share your findings with your parent or teacher.

  • What influence do you see World War II having on the chapters of the novel that you have read so far?

Record your thoughts in your notebook.

After you have discussed your reflections, read Chapters Seventeen through Twenty-One in the novel. You will need to obtain a print copy of The Catcher in the Rye, which you can find in your local library or bookstore. As you read, take notes on the people Caulfield encounters in these chapters and what his emotional reaction is to them. Also, take notes on the information that Caulfield reveals about D.B.'s experiences in World War II.

When you've finished reading and taking notes, move on to the Got It? section to explore the plot and characterization of these chapters.

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