Hey, fancy meeting you here. Where am I? I’m in jail. For what? I decided to teach my students Catcher in the Rye, yeah I know. You don’t buy it? What? Okay, all right. But if some people in America had their way teachers could get arrested for teaching Catcher in the Rye in a public school. It’s one of the most censored books in American history.
So what happens when your teacher asks you to write a persuasive essay on censorship of Catcher in the Rye? What you going to do? Where are you going to start? In this episode we are going to talk about that and other common assignments for this book. We are going to talk about how to handle an essay exam, as well as quotation analysis. So please let’s get started I got to get out of here.
See your nasty old teacher has sprung the persuasive essay on you. And you are supposed to write about whether Catcher in the Rye should be censored or not. Let me tell you something about the persuasive essay. The number one mistake I see kids doing on this kind of thing, is writing just an opinion paper. I think blah blah blah, you know what a persuasive essay is really a regular thesis essay or thesis paper in disguise. It’s just called something a little different.
The persuasive essay utilizes logic and reason. That’s the important part, to show that one idea is more legitimate than another idea. So not just I think, but actually using things to back up what you think. A persuasive essay tries to persuade the reader to adopt a certain point of view. So you're going to take your stand one way or another and then you are going to try to convince your reader that what you are saying is right.
Again, this idea of logic, it uses logic examples and quotations. I cannot emphasize that enough. You could write a great paper, but if you don’t throw some quotes in there, you don’t give me specific examples from the book, I’m not going to give you a good grade.
So censorship in Catcher in the Rye. With that kind of persuasive essay I would definitely recommend some background research. Now you owe me because I have actually done it for you. If you click on the link in the bonus materials, you actually have the history of the censorship of this book. So if you have something like that that’s looking for that extra information, please take the time to do your research. It's really going to benefit in the end.
Don’t assume that you know why it’s been censored or how it’s been censored, it might be something completely different than what you think. So the next step is to determine your opinion. Now there is a way to do this and a way not to do this. Let’s look here first.
"I do not think Catcher in the Rye should be censored because its use of profanity “immoral” activity, and frank topic matter are true to both its time period and modern day." In a way it sounds very impressive, but there is something we need to change here. Very important, are you listening? Unless your teacher says so, do not use I in a persuasive essay.
First person makes this a lot less formal, it’s almost like a speech or a debate. I know that’s not what I want when I make this assignment. So if you have any questions, double check with your teacher first. So we can really simply take this and make this. Because its use of profanity, “immoral” activity, and frank topic matter are true to both its time period and modern day, Catcher in the Rye should not be censored.
We didn’t really do too much there. There was a quick fix. We pulled out the 'I', we made it into more of a statement. We put ourself out of it. The thing I really like about this, is that it’s kind of showing you three different thing that you are going to talk about later on. It’s a bit of a preview. We say that it has immoral activity profanity and frank topic matter. If you wanted to just plug that into one of these, the 5 paragraph essay, you could do one paragraph on each of those three things. And you throw your conclusion in and you throw your intro in and that’s all that really is to it.
So remember, a persuasive essay isn’t really anything different than what you usually do, it’s just got a bit of a fancier name to it.
So the essay exam is a very common thing you are going to see in your English classroom. You’ve written them before, you are going to write them again. But the essay exam shouldn’t be that hard. You know how to write an essay, right? This is basically writing an essay with a time constraint. Now that freaks a lot of people out, but we are going to go through some steps that will make it really easy for you to stay on track and make the most of your time.
Here is our sample essay exam prompt. This is when I actually wrote about high school and in turn, my students in high school write about it now. Is Holden mentally deranged, or is he a normal teenager? Explain why or why not discussing specific examples from the story.
So maybe you are not even sure how to attack this. Let’s go through some easy steps that you can follow when you got an essay exam to do. The first step is going to be determine your opinion. Now if you want to go back, there is a question being asked here? Your response, your answer to that question is what we are looking for.
So for that prompt, do we think Holden is a normal kid or do we think he is bananas? Personally, I think that he is a totally normal teenager with a completely abnormal set of situations that have graded him in his life. We will talk more about that but remember, you don’t have to agree with me. Literally analysis is all about stating your opinions and then backing them up. So, you might not have the same opinion when it comes to this, but you are going to follow the same steps so let’s keep going.
The second thing you are going to do, is find specific examples that back up whatever you are answer to that question is. So I’m going to look for three things that I can put in my paper, that show that Holden really has a screwed up situation that he is dealing with and he is pretty normal. So I recommend looking for three key points. It’s going to make it easier when we get to structure, I’ll show you in just a second.
The first key point that I would use, is Holden’s description of the way that he reacted to Allie’s death, and recognizing that he was having a hard time. Do you remember when he told us about hurting his hand and breaking the glass after Allie died? It’s really powerful, and I think it would be a great point to use. The second thing I would use is a description of Holden’s parents. He tells us that they’ve been really distant since Allie’s death. So not only has he lost his brother, but the people who are supposed to be there for him to lean on, aren’t there any more. That’s really just adding to this horrible situation that he finds himself in.
The last key point that I would include in my essay exam, is the Holden’s attitude towards protecting the innocent. A change is at the end of the book and in the carousel scene. Now as a teenager isn’t that pretty normal? Something happens to you think about it, you process it, and then you change. It’s a big time for change and that is completely normal. So these three points are what I would use to back up the opinion that I decided on in step 1.
Step 3 for the essay exam, is to extrapolate the examples and include relevant quotations. Quotations are so important if you want to do well on this. They are your back up. They are what’s proving your point for you. You can state an opinion all you want, but if you got your opinion and a quotation it’s really going to be a lot more encouraging to your teacher. You know what you are talking about, and you know how to back it up. Also if you do your quotations, let’s say you do three of them one for each of your backups, you are just going to insert each of them into the five paragraph essay. You’ve done these before. The inverted triangle, the intro three body paragraphs and the conclusion. This structure is pretty much ready-made and it’s there for you. You’ll just put one quotation and each of the different body paragraphs.
Now, if you are a little bit confused about what I said about extrapolation, because that’s kind of a big gross word. Let’s look at this example. Here is a quotation that I’ve decided I’m going to use in my essay. "The thing with kids is if they want to grab for the gold ring you have to let them do it and not say anything. If they fall off they fall off but it’s bad if you say anything to them." So let’s say I’m going to use this as my third body paragraph quotation. It’s a great quotation. But one of the biggest mistakes that I have seen students make, is they throw quotation into a paragraph all by itself. Like this is going to be a sentence in that paragraph, just like this. What you need to do is actually connect the author’s words with your own words. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated it can just be a little tag right in front of it, so it’s not flooding all by itself in the middle of your paragraph.
So let’s see how we can do this extrapolation thing. See what I have done here, I’ve taken the quotation down here at the bottom and I’ve added my own words to it. So you’ll see what I’m highlighting right here, this is our edit. This is the change that I’ve made. These are the words, my words, that I’ve added to the quotation. So that it’s not floating all by itself in the middle of my paragraph. And remember it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You're just kind of setting up the quotation.
So my words here are Holden’s mind set begins to change by the end of the book as he realizes he can’t save all the children of the world from corruption. Then I throw a quote in there and then I got my quotation. That’s all that fancy sounding extrapolation thing really is. So you don’t need to be intimidated by it at all. Put your own words in there, connect the two together, and you are golden.
Remember, a quotation cannot stand on its own. If you take one thing out of this episode, that’s what I want you to remember the big teacher Pet-peeve.
Now I can guarantee you that quotation analysis is going to come up in your English class. I promise on my honor as a teacher, you are going to be asked to take a quotation and explain it. Not just the who and the where and the what, but its significance and this totally freaks kids out sometimes. Don’t worry about it. I’m going to show you what a real quick easy method called the JUMP method. And you can follow these steps to analyze a quotation easily, whether it’s in writing, or whether you are doing a class discussion. The 'j' in JUMP stands for just the facts.
What you are doing here is very simply giving us the context for the quotation. Who is saying it, are they talking to someone, maybe when does it happen in the book? This is the real basic stuff that shows you have read the book and you know what’s happening.
The next thing the 'u' stands for understand the importance why is this important at this particular time in the book? When we move to 'm', more and more, the reasons more and more are kind of doing what we did in number 2 but on a larger scale. Why is that quotation significant for the entire book? What is its little piece in the big puzzle?
The last thing if you can do it is, sure to knock your teacher socks off. The 'p' stands for push it further. Basically what I mean here is push it further than just inside the book. Can you take whatever is being talked about in points that you are making? And can you apply them to the world or your own life or a situation that’s outside the confines of just these pages? It’s so cool when you can do that. That’s what literature is supposed to be for but we don’t always have the chance to do that in class.
So why don’t we look at a couple examples and try the JUMP method out with some quotes from Catcher? “The thing with kids is if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it and not say anything. If they fall off they fall, off but it’s bad if you say anything to them." So definitely you should know this but by now we’ve talked about it before what’s the 'j' for this one? What’s just the fact? Who’s talking? It’s Holden. He does a lot of talking in our book as the narrator. And he is kind of discussing what’s going on at the end in central park at the carousel scene. He is watching Phoebe on the carousel. So those are our 'j' or just the facts.
Now you understand the importance why is this particular quote important here? He is having a change of opinion. First, he kind of feels compelled to try to save here he doesn’t want to fall off her carousel horse, trying to reach for the ring. So it marks a change in him when he is like well maybe she'll just fall.
More and more we are taking what we just did and looking at the bigger picture. How is this important in the whole book? I’d have to say that it’s huge. It marks a significant change in Holden’s previous desire to always want to catch everyone, to protect the innocent.
The 'p' push it further, what can we do with that? He is looking and having this epiphany. How can we apply this to our own world? Well maybe there is a situation in our life that we are not happy about, and we resign ourselves to it. Isn’t that what Holden Is doing here? He is basically dealing with a circumstance he doesn’t like. He realizes he can’t save everyone or save everything. Are there things in your life that you have to resign yourself to, that you don’t have any choice over? I’m sure there are and that would be a great way to push this quote even further.
Let’s do one more example, I just want to make sure you’ve got it. “I saw a man and a woman squirting water out of their months at each other. The trouble was, that kind of junk is sort of fascinating to watch, even if you don’t want it to be...I can even see how it might be quite a lot of fun, in a crumby way, and if you were both sort of drunk and all... the thing is though, I don’t like the idea.”
Do you remember this scene in this little scenario that Holden gives us? This takes place in the hotel, in Manhattan, so that’s our 'j'. He is looking at the window from his hotel room and he can he’s got this great view write into this room where the man and the woman are doing this. So that’s a little bit into the book after he has left pency, so that’s our just of facts; kind of time and the place.
Now the 'u', understand the importance of this. He had this great idea the hotel is like a wonderful and comfortable place. And now he is seeing something that makes him really uncomfortable. This happens all the time. He's got security and then something messes it up. So this is kind of a changing point for him when he sees the hotel in different way.
The 'm' in JUMP, more and more what are we going to with this? How are we going to look at this in a bigger picture? Holden is doing this kind of thing all the time. It’s a long running theme where he sees things and then he is kind of discouraged by them. It’s important though that we notice, he says he doesn’t like it, but he also says it’s fascinating. And the more and more could be this idea that Holden is not really sure what to do with this new feelings he is having. He is a teenager and there’s all kind of crazy things going through his head. He's got hormones rushing all over the place he is kind of like, "Oh that’s cool but I don’t want to like it." The bigger picture here is that he is learning to deal with things that he might not be comfortable with.
And 'p' push it further, Holden is really uncomfortable with the part of him that likes watching the scene. I’m sure you can apply that to yourself unless you are God’s gift to the world. There is probably something about yourself that you don’t like. I know that I tend to rumble and talk too much, I don’t really like that about myself. I see that in myself. What could you see in yourself that could help you push this quote further?
In case you are busy counting your new crushes on my yearbook.com, when you should have been paying attention to this episode, here is the gist of what you missed. We talked common assignments. We talked about a persuasive essay, quotation analysis and also an essay exam. You should have a game plan now for all those different things when they show up in your English class.
If you want a little extra credit, check out what I left for you in the bonus material section. It’s kind of an assignment sheet sheet to go. Let’s say you get an assignment on plot. What it’s going to do you just look a plot and it will tell you which episode of mine you need to re-watch, so you can thank me later. Consider your get out of jail free card.