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While your students are busily paging through Holden Caufield’s anxiety filled existence on the streets of New York City, it might be an excellent time to introduce them to another culturally iconic “outsider": Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate." If you have not seen this film in a while, it is worth a re-visit while you are reading Catcher in the Rye; the similarities between the two young men are striking. Even in the written form, the two novels have highly similar tones and moods, and the style of language used by Ben and Holden is eerily similar. Long lost brothers? Or just two similar lost souls?
Regardless, it is fun to show your students this once ‘scandalous’ and now tame movie of alienation and loss in the 1960’s. This current generation may have never even heard of the movie or its hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, but once they watch it, they will see glimpses of Holden across the screen. Call to their attention especially the scene of him on the bottom of the pool; can they find a passage in their novel that captures that visual?
First give them the excerpt of The Graduate to read, annotate, and analyze and then have them compare and contrast it to a passage of their choosing in Catcher in the Rye. Then, show the film and use the downloadable test to assess their grasp of not only the film’s plot but of the overarching themes between the two stories. It’s a lesson they’ll remember forever.