Holden Caulfield as an Anti-Hero

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for The Catcher in the Rye


Catcher in the Rye Holden as an Antihero

Example



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Activity Overview


Uncovering the motivations of a protagonist and understanding different archetypes in fiction is an important part of literary appreciation. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is considered an anti-hero. Students can create Storyboards with cells tracking the protagonist's actions, and find support that categorizes him as an anti-hero.

For front-loading terms and a lesson plan, see our article on anti-heroes.

An anti-hero, by definition, is a central character who lacks conventional heroic attributes. Some even display qualities that are almost more in line with villains. Traits like conceitedness, immorality, rebellion, and dishonesty signal that the author does not intend the audience to admire the protagonist. In the sample board below, the Frayer Model is used to reveal how Holden fits this archetype.


  • Anti-hero Definition: a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes such as idealism, moral goodness, and altruism.

  • Characteristics: Holden is an anti-hero because he is a perpetual liar, he frequently judges and finds fault with others, and he fails to follow through with any plans.

  • Examples: Holden meets three girls in a bar and dances with them, but he thinks they’re all morons. He eventually tells one girl that he has just seen Gary Cooper, the movie star, to mess with her because he can’t stand her. When she tells the other girls she even caught a glimpse of him, Holden gets a good laugh.

  • Non-Examples: Phoebe is the opposite of Holden. She is sweet, innocent, and genuinely concerned for Holden. When she finds out he’s failed out of school, she’s afraid of the punishment he’ll get from their father. When he tells her he’s hitchhiking out West, she tries to come along, and follows him to the zoo afterwards, even though she’s upset.



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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Holden Caulfield can be considered an antihero.


  1. Identify events of the story or characteristics of Holden that fit into attributes of an antihero.
  2. Illustrate examples for Definition, Characteristics, Examples and Non-Examples.
  3. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Holden Caulfield as an antihero.
  4. Save and submit the assignment.

Frayer Model Template

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