Ms. Gokturk



Catcher in the Rye: How to Write Literary Analysis

Samples and Formula


Nearly all the final project options require analyzing the text and providing TBE. The basic formula anyone can follow is, although there may be variations:


Sentence 1: Topics sentence (thesis)

Sentence 2: Example 1: Your assertion

Sentence 3: TBE 1

Sentence 4: Explain how example supports your assertion

Sentence 5: Example 2: Your assertion

Sentence 6: TBE 2

Sentence 7: Explain how example supports your assertion

Sentence 8: Example 1: Your assertion

Sentence 9: TBE 2

Sentence 10: Explain how example supports your assertion

Sentence 11: Conclusion or transition


For a song/poem explication. The paragraph has been numbered so you can recognize what the author is doing.

Guster’s "What You Wish For"

1.      Guster’s “What You Wish For” strongly echoes the theme of depression that appears throughout the novel.

2.      Holden’s growing sense of dread grows manic as he senses the futility of his existence in a world full of phonies that don’t understand him, yet he continues on his quest in trying to find someone to talk to who isn’t phony.

3.      “What You Wish For” begins, "Woke up today to everything gray. And all that I saw just kept going on and on.”

4.      The mood of the song is bleak and depressing, which very much relates to Holden’s depression (“Everything is gray”) as he does not see light and happiness around him.

5.      As the days go on, everything keeps getting more miserable and his depression mounts. Everything demoralizes him, even going to the movies, an activity that gives most people pleasure.

6.      He says, "I can understand somebody going to the movies because there’s nothing else to do, but when somebody really wants to go, and even fast so as to get there quicker, then it depresses hell out of me" (116).

7.      In other words, how others (and himself) rush to sit through and be lulled by the phoniness of Hollywood, depresses him.

8.      “What You Wish For” echoes not only Holden’s depressed mood, but also his poor coping skills.

9.      The next verse states, "Sweep all the pieces under the bed. Close all the curtains and cover my head."

10.  Holden’s avoidance to addressing his problems, he, just like the song, “sweeps all the pieces under the bed” by running away from school, home, and even himself. He also closes the “curtains and cover[s] [his] head by masking his pain in journeying and drinking. The "pieces" and the "curtains" are all of Holden’s problems.

11.  Holden, like Guster’s song, has a sad approach to life, often finding ways to not cope with his problems, which causes his depression to worsen.

The student went on to write other paragraphs for the song that connected with Holden.

Avril Lavigne’s "Complicated"

The reoccurring theme in The Catcher in the Rye is living in a world with "phonies." The main reason why Holden can’t seem to have any meaningful relationships with anyone is because he picks people apart and finds all the little things that make them a phony. Holden can’t stand to be around phonies, and since almost everyone he meets is phony, he can’t have normal relationships. Avril Lavigne’s, "Complicate," is all about phonies. She states that she likes when she’s along with the object or audience of the song when they’re alone because it’s real, but “you become somebody else ‘round everyone else/ Watchin’ your back, like you can’t relax/You’re tryin’ to be cool.” Like Holden, who thinks everyone looks phony, the narrator of the song thinks, “ You look like a fool to me” and this “make[s] things so complicated,” which echoes Holden’s animosity towards fakes around him, and he gets more and more upset the more he notices. He virtually obesses about phonies all the time. He reminds us frequently that "You never saw so many phonies in all your life…" (126), and the students in his class are "…listening to that phony Andover…" (128), and he mistrusts the fakes: "I keep worrying about whether he’s going to do something phony every minute" ( 117). Even a woman crying at a Hollywood film strikes him as acting ridiculous to the act on screen. He says, "The phonier it got, the more she cried" (139). Holden’s frustration with phoniness prevents him from living his life up to its full potential. Like Lavigne’s song, “I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else, gets me frustrated.” Holden’s mental state deteriorates as the novel progresses and his frustration grows, ultimately causing his total nervous breakdown.

For the Scrapbook (May be in third or first person)

Item: Scrap of Paper with Antolini’s quote

This student captured the item and then Holden’s own words explain why it was significant. Then, she went on to explicate in third person with the literary evidence…

This piece of paper was given to me by Mr. Antolini when I was staying at his house. He said to me, “I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause” (188). That is why he gave the paper to me. The quote was written by some psychoanalyst, and read, “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” At the time, I was so tired, that I wasn’t really sure what he meant, but I thanked him for writing the quote down for me and everything. I pocketed the piece of paper, and I like to take a look at it every once in a while. I realize now that I was, then, filled with polar extremes. My goal of being a “Catcher in the Rye” was an impossibility and would cause my death, emotional, psychological, and perhaps physical, if I pursued this irrational choice, but if I accepted adulthood and grow to maturity, I would see that I could do something to protect others in more reasonable terms. Antolini also told me that when I would find out where I wanted to go, I would apply myself in school. And then he said something else that I remember pretty well. He said, “You’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior” (189). I am now mature enough to see that I am not the only great mind who has been frustrated by the world’s ugliness.

Holden holds on to the quote given to him by Mr.Antolini. It is apparent that his former teacher is an important person in his life. He describes Mr.Antolini as a person “you could kid around with…without losing your respect for him” (174). He calls him late at night, seeking connection, after the link he tried to form with his sister Phoebe fails. Holden regards his old teacher as more of a friend or big brother then a superior. He meets Holden’s need by trying to reach out and help him. The connection Mr.Antolini was trying to make with Holden was not working because Holden was in a rundown state from not eating or sleeping and drinking a smoking excessively. Mr.Antolini tries to show Holden that he is “by no means alone” (189). He tries to mentor and send him in the correct path. Unfortunately, Holden forgets their talk when he is awoken with Mr.Antolini patting his head. “He was sitting on the floor right next to the couch, in the dark and all, and he was sort of petting me or patting me on the goddam head” (192).

This item is significant because it illustrates Holden’s struggle for help and connection from another person, and how once again, for reasons out of his hands, he fails unsuccessfully. Mr. Antolini understood that Holden was trying to “die nobly for a cause”. Holden wanted to be the catcher in the rye, and he would have “to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff” (173). This piece of paper would remind Holden of the connection he almost achieved with Mr. Antolini, and the truth behind the advice he attempted to present to an overly exhausted boy.