Journal #1: Pre-Reading Guide
Due by 4 pm, Friday, May 7
Complete this journal BEFORE you read the novel.
Below are four statements. Read each one and decide if you agree or disagree with it. Then circle your opinion and write a short explanation of why you agree or disagree.
1. Adults just don’t understand teenagers.

2. Most people are phony.

3. It’s better to be an outsider (iconoclast) than an insider (conformist).


If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all—I’m not saying that—but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. (1)

1. In these opening lines from the novel, Holden makes a reference to David Copperfield, a character created by Charles Dickens. Do some research on this character to find out what his childhood/ home life was like. Write a 2-3 sentence summary in your own words of what you find. Then, discuss in 1-2 sentences what this reference tells us about Holden’s life.

2. What would you say is the tone of this opening passage (tone = speaker’s attitude)? Chose a specific word or two to describe Holden’s tone and defend your answer by picking out 2-3 short quotes from the passage and explaining how they convey that tone.

3. What does the last sentence tell you about where Holden is and why he’s there?

To get an idea of the environment Holden is living in at school, check out the following website: It contains links to military and college preparatory school ads for schools like those Holden has been attending at the start of the novel.

Give a short description (3-5 sentences) of what you think of these ads and schools.