Jerome David Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is a truly unique novel in terms of writing style. The story is told in a second person narrative style by a character named Holden Caulfield, and is written loosely in a fashion known as 'stream of consciousness writing'.
The stream of consciousness style of writing is that in which the writing directly follows the character's thought process in either an interior monologue or through the character's reactions to external occurrences. Stream of consciousness writing is not typically used in books due to its clearly-defined limits and its extreme demand for a talented and devoted author. In order for the writing to be effective, the story must revolve around only one character, and that character must be developed extensively as a believable person through realistic thoughts and actions. The following of Holden's stream of consciousness is the reason that many seemingly unnecessary facts find their way into Salinger's writing. They are a direct result of Holden's roaming teenage mind. Many other works of literature have used the stream of consciousness writing style, so this alone does not make Salinger's work unique. What makes The Catcher in the Rye a unique literary work is Salinger's combination of stream of consciousness along with several other literary contrivances.
One of these contrivances in particular is the way Holden?s thoughts are set up in a specific order so that one ostensibly random tangent relates, contrasts, or plainly contradicts another. A good example of one of Salinger?s very intelligent and slightly vague contrasts can be seen distinctly when Holden places his account of children directly beside his account of actors, showing the difference between the two. Children are very young, innocent, and honest, while actors generally possess none of these elements. Actors, no matter their age are not young, they are not innocent, and they are the phoniest of the phonies. In another example of Salinger?s ingenious arrangement of thoughts, Holden?s own hypocrisy is shown by juxtaposing the inconsideration of Ackley with Holden?s own inconsideration.
Another literary device used by Salinger that is seen in nearly no earlier works is one of rhythm and emphasis. Salinger shows his attentiveness toward the rhythms of speech by using italics quite frequently in order to let the reader know when a character is placing emphasis on a word, or even on just a syllable, in dialogue. The emphasis of a single syllable shows a realism to the dialogue of The Catcher in the Rye rarely seen not only in the works of Salinger?s time, but also before and after it. Salinger?s emphasis on the rhythm of speech is mirrored in his emphasis on the rhythm of thought, which, in turn, emphasizes the importance of both. Salinger uses paragraph breaks not only to change from one subject to another, but also to accentuate certain thoughts. In another demonstration of his literary brilliance, Salinger shows that...