2 Narrative Style First person narrator – Holden – invites us into the mind of the protagonist.our understanding of the novel’s world is discerned primarily from Holden’s own perception of it.Therefore, we must question the reliability of the narrator and the extent to which he is presenting an unbiased perception or a deliberately altered construction of the world.There is clear evidence to suggest that Holden is not an entirely reliable narrator.
3 Narrative voiceIt is important to question Holden’s motivations at different points in the narrative to discern the reasons why he presents episodes in particular ways.uses the pronoun ‘I’ throughout.at the beginning and end of the narrative he uses direct address –the second person pronoun ‘you’ to address the reader directly.we develop the idea that Salinger wanted the novel to be an intimate communication between Holden and the reader – in the same way that an intimate conversation might be conducted between two friends.
4 Narrative voicethis generates conflicting emotions in the reader because much of Holden’s personality we find contemptible – his cynicism and fatalism are difficult for us to accept in a teenage narrator. Yet, this might have been Salinger’s intention because it allows us access to the tormented mind of his young protagonist.Find some examples of Holden’s narration from across the novel.Using these moments of narration, try to explain the effect of first person narration in the novel.
5 Holden’s Stock Phrases In order to make Holden seem like a unique and believable person, Salinger allows him to use certain stock phrases repeatedly throughout the narrative.The repetition of Holden’s stock phrases reminds us that Holden is supposed to be a fictional representation of an idiosyncratic (unique) individual with his own idiom (style of language).Equally, Holden’s use of stock phrases reflects the slang of 1950s America.
6 Holden’s Stock Phrases Collate a list of Holden’s stock phrases.Why has Salinger chosen these phrases and used them repeatedly throughout the novel? – think not just about creating a believable narrator, but also what they might tell us about Holden’s character and reliability as a narrator.Are there any stock phrases that suit a much more sinister purpose – think specifically about Holden’s references to death in the novel.
7 Holden’s DigressionsOften, Holden will ‘digress’ into relating an event to the reader of which he is reminded.Sometimes Holden digresses when he is discussing particular incidents in his life and other times when he is explaining relationships with other characters.This technique adds to the realism of the novel – it mirrors the reality of human interaction.Find some examples of Holden’s digressions, and try to explain why Salinger has adopted this style – how do they give power to Holden, or undermine him?
8 Taboo LanguageWhen the novel was first published, The Catholic Herald condemned the novel for its ‘formidably excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language’.Identify some examples of taboo language that Holden uses in his narration.Now group the examples according to the following headings: general swearing, insults and swearing used to describe how he feels.Why do you thing that The Catholic Herald was so alarmed by Holden’s use of language?What is contradictory about Holden’s use of taboo language bearing in mind his rage when he finds the graffiti that reads ‘fuck off’?What does this tell us about Holden’s perceptions of language and its use in society?
9 Exaggeration and Vague Expression Holden uses exaggeration and vague expression in equal measure.Holden exaggerates, primarily, when he doesn’t like something and Salinger employs exaggeration to create humour in the novel.Conversely, Holden expresses his emotions vaguely – often omitting logical explanations of why he dislikes an object or person.Equally, Holden offers us his inner-most thought but rarely draws any detailed conclusions from them.
10 Exaggeration and Vague Expression Find examples of Holden’s exaggerationComment on your examples thinking about the effect they create and what they tell us about Holden’s character.Look for different examples of vague expressionComment on your examples trying to suggest why Holden is being vague – is it deliberate or are there other reasons?
11 Use of DialogueDialogue is a tool that Salinger uses to describe his characters – throughout the novel, you will have noticed that conventional description is minimal:Salinger reveals his characters through what they ‘say’ rather than how they ‘look’.Whereas, conventional novels draw on certain images and their associations to describe characters visually, Salinger depends on our ability as speakers and listeners to understand each character through speech.
12 Use of DialogueSelect a character, other than Holden, and write down some quotations of their speech.Explain how the language of the quotation reveals their character to the reader.
13 Literary anti-styleSalinger’s novel almost veers towards adopting a literary ‘anti-style’;The novel makes little use of conventional literary techniquesThere are few metaphorsThe prose itself is highly naturalisticEqually, descriptions of people, places and objects are incredibly sparse–The effect of this approach is powerful, it creates a novel that is based on the physical actions of the characters (speech and obvious behaviours) which convey the impression that we are seeing the world through the unreflective – and reactionary – eyes of a teenage boy.
14 Literary anti-styleIdentify one passage from the novel that exemplifies Salinger’s ‘anti-style’ – a section which in another novel, for example, might be constructed in a more descriptive way.What is the impact of Salinger’s approach both on that passage, but also across the novel?
15 Syntactical Structure Salinger’s literary anti-style impacts most obviously on the novel’s sentence structures.Unlike many literary texts, which are a blend of syntactical styles, The Catcher in the Rye tends toward a simple syntactical structure, causing the sentences to be much tighter and more direct.This gives the novel its momentum and pace towards Holden’s impending breakdown.Equally, many of the sentences do not resemble properly constructed structures – especially when Salinger allows Holden to explain himself in moments of doubt or anger. At these times, the sentences tend to roll endlessly with little direction.This allows Salinger to replicate the rhythm of naturalistic speech in the sense that in times of high crisis or emotion our own sentences lack focus.This also links with the notion of a literary anti-style, in that much of the novel adopts the style of speech rather than literary prose.
16 Syntactical Structure Select some examples of Salinger’s sentences at key moments in the novel.What does the construction of the sentences suggest about Salinger’s intentions at each point in the narrative?
17 Prediction from the 1950’sLiterary critic Donald Costello, forecast that:In the coming decades, The Catcher in the Rye will be studied…’as an example of teenage vernacular in the 1950s. The book will be a significant historical record of a type of speech rarely made available in permanent form.’What do you think prompted Costello to make this assertion?Do you agree with his point of view – briefly write down your own ideas and find quotations that demonstrate the types of language that he might mean.