What Lessons Students Can Learn from “The Catcher in The Rye”

In the USA, there are scare few students who haven’t read “The Catcher in the Rye” or wrote papers on the book. It’s become a novel that epitomizes the struggles of adolescents on their way to adulthood.

JD Salinger, himself, known to be a reclusive author who hated the publishing industry, got noticed for this work. Students usually read the book and write a The Catcher in The Rye analysis essay because it’s more relevant to students than other age groups. Basically, The Catcher in the Rye itself is about young people who find difficulties associated with adulthood and life in general, so writing an essay is a fine way to rethink all those concepts, after all. What lessons are The Catcher in the Rye teaching, though?

Here are a number of The Catcher in the Rye lessons that the book teaches:

You’re Allowed to Make Mistakes

Central to the idea of an adolescent, Holden, in this case, is a fear of failure. He may not appear to care about leaving school or his friends in the beginning, but just the fact that he chooses to avoid his parents’ hints that he knows that his self-destructive behavior has a price. There is more than one example of this in the book.

Everything does have a price, but ultimately, we know that he’s returning to school in the fall, despite his fantasy of living out in the wilderness somewhere in the Midwest. It is interesting to note, though, that Salinger, himself, actually lived in this fantasy, just in a different part of the world.

What this shows is something that we all learn in our adolescence and into our twenties: that we make mistakes, and no matter how many there are, it isn’t the end of the world.

Everybody Feels Frustrated Sometimes

Holden feels frequently frustrated in the book. He’s frustrated by his friends, romantic interests, school, teachers, and society, itself. As a youth, he even feels sexual frustration, which is a prerequisite for entering adulthood, if memory serves. So, what’s the point? Everybody feels frustrated with just about everything at one time or another… and that’s okay.

Frustration can be Positively Focused

It’s Mr. Antolini, who despite a terrible misunderstanding, teaches Holden something beneficial. He can take all of the frustrations that accompany immaturity and channel them into something positive.

It’s by this practice, that youth find frustration change into something useful, like writing an essay, an art, or a degree, and that is just a sample of what they can accomplish.

Terrible Things Happen to People, Good or Bad

Some of what happens to Holden is brought about by himself, but there are also things that occur to him that are beyond his control, like the pimp who comes to his room to rob him.

It happens to everyone, good or bad, and that experience is what helps us to avoid the nasty things that can occur and how to deal with events that we can’t control.

No One’s a Hero

Our central character doesn’t end up with a glowing, successful life at the end, nor does he ride off into the sunset, having got the girl and won the day. He doesn’t escape from all of his predicaments free and easy. Despite this, we still want to invest our time in Holden, because of just how human he is.

People Aren’t All “Phonies”

It’s something that Caulfield says frequently throughout the book, almost to the point of becoming an irritation. It seems that anyone he doesn’t like, and even a number of people he does, are all “phonies”.

This idea of challenging social norms isn’t anything new, but it does show students reading the book that they aren’t alone in what they think or what they do. Teenage rebellion is quite common, and the acceptance that everyone else has a little rebel in them is normal, too.

Everyone Feels Rejected

Everyone has felt rejected at some time or another in their lives. For many, it’s a common occurrence for them to feel some form of rejection at work, at home, and even at the supermarket.

Rejection is everywhere, but this book shows that so is acceptance. Indeed, Caulfield ends up realizing in the end that much of what really was acceptance, was often mistaken as some form of rejection.

Be Thankful for What You Have

Holden rejects many people himself, only to try and patch things up with them later. It’s through his many squabbles and misunderstandings that he grows to realize just how much all of those people actually mean to him. Towards the end of the book, he even remarks on how much he now misses his friends from his old school.

Know What a Good Book Really Is

It’s no secret that people today widely read what’s easy and entertaining. Although there’s nothing wrong with this, it has made some authors incredibly wealthy when they’re actually not particularly good writers.

It’s authors, like J.D. Salinger who expose students and adults alike to the good prose that made him well-known. It’s also what makes students wake up and look for more literature and less pulp!


So, sure there’s plenty of great messages from “The Catcher in the Rye” and lots of reasons to sympathize with the main character, but what lessons do students learn from it?

Far more than any other age group does. Adults who read “The Catcher in the Rye” feel a sense of nostalgia from reading it, but students, especially high school students, are the ones who are living it. They might live in a world that’s online, but the message is still there.

And, in the end, that’s what makes “The Catcher in the Rye” a treasure trove of lessons for a student.

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