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The Catcher In The Rye Essay

1599 words - 6 pages

The Catcher in the Rye 'The Catcher in the Rye', was written in 1951 by American author J.D. Salinger. I selected this novel for my study because I received it as a gift, and was interested in the controversy surrounding it. Indeed, it is not a "comfortable read", and it was banned in America after its first publication. However, for the purposes of this essay, I will concentrate on how successfully Salinger reveals the main character's complexities. I will examine how Salinger uses monologue, word-choice, structure, and the very behaviour of Holden Caulfield himself; to give us an insight into Holden's character. Salinger's methods are deeply thought provoking, and he even challenges our attitude to the human condition.Superficially, the story of teenager Holden Caulfield's expulsion from yet another school, 'The Catcher in the Rye' is, in fact, a perceptive study of one seventeen year old's understanding of himself, and his world. The character is a young man, growing up in 1950's New York, who has been expelled from school - once again - due to academic underacheivment. In an attempt to deal with his situation, he leaves school a few days before he is meant to, taking a 'break' before returning to his parent's inevitable wrath. The story is made up of Holden's elementary monologue of 'complexly simple' thoughts, and the rest uses his relay of previous dialogue (i.e.: past tense). These, and the use of digressing illustrations, clever punctuation and complex characterisation; are what make this plot so intriguing.The novel's monologue and dialogue are both used effectively to give the feeling of casual speaking, i.e. "I mean you'd be different in someway - I can't explain what I mean" The contradictions, "you'd" and "can't" are a typical example of how Salinger establishes a conversational and simplistic tone. Also, he uses dashes for signalling digressions and pauses. This makes the dialogue come to life, giving the feeling that someone is speaking to you directly, and has not planned what to say. And instead of using commas to indicate a pause, they are usually only used where they are necessary. This re-inforces the informal tone by showing how typically Holden speaks. E.g.: "The way I met her, this Doberman pincher she had used to come over and relieve himself on our lawn, and my mother got very irritated about it." We can tell only a little about Holden from punctuation and tone. However, we can gain a deeper insight from the very words Holden uses.We know Holden struggles - internally - with death, as he continually makes references to his dead brother Allie. Indeed, when Holden is depressed he even 'speaks' to Allie under his breath. However, if we look closely at his language, we can tell he probably has an intense fixation of death. Holden frequently uses phrases like, "That killed me" On the surface this just seems like childish banter, but if we take the word "killed" to be more significant, then we can find referrences to death...

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