Corruption Exposed In The Catcher In The Rye

932 words - 4 pages

The theme of The Catcher in the Rye is simple. J. D. Salinger uses this novel to draw a clear distinction between the purity of childhood and the wickedness attained when one reaches adulthood. Salinger uses multiple literary devices including diction, symbolism, tone, and even the title of the novel to drive home his ideas about the innocence of children and the corruption of the world.
The form of diction used in The Catcher in the Rye is a topic on which many people are strongly opinionated. Because the narrator speaks solely in the vernacular, the novel is ripe with vulgar language. Most of this language is used to characterize Holden, the protagonist and narrator, as a typical American teenager living in the late 1940s or early 1950s, but some of it is utilized to convey Salinger’s theme of innocence versus corruption. When Holden is walking through his sister Phoebe’s school, he sees a scrawl on the wall saying “Fuck you.” He imagines the writing was etched by “some perverty bum that’d sneaked in the school late at night to take a leak or something” (260-61). Again in the museum, Holden encounters another such sign. Both the school and the museum are places he identifies with his childhood, but they have been perverted by the corruption of the world. He is concerned for the children who will inevitably see these signs and be told what they mean by “some dirty kid…all cockeyed, naturally” (260), spoiling the children’s innocence. This is just one more step towards adulthood and corruption. He is disgusted by the people in the world, saying “You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write ‘Fuck you’ right under your nose” (264). So convinced the world is a wicked place, Holden feels certain that when he dies, the phrase will be included in the epitaph on his tombstone. Holden’s desire to kill whoever had written those words on the walls and to erase all the vulgar signs in the world shows his desire to be a savior.
Holden yearns to be a savior, as illustrated by the symbol of the red hunting hat. When Ackley tells Holden the hat is a deer shooting hat, Holden replies “Like hell it is…This is a people shooting hat. I shoot people in this hat” (30). When he insists that the hat is a “people shooting hat,” he uses shooting as a metaphor for saving, essentially shooting away the perversion of adulthood. Although the wearer of the hat changes during the novel, the purpose remains the same. Those who wear the hat are characterized as saviors. Phoebe saves Holden from his...

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