Catcher In The Rye

Just a few notes on the book

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Context

Jerome David Salinger was born in New York City in 1919. The son of a wealthy cheese importer, Salinger grew up in a fashionable neighborhood in Manhattan and spent his youth being shuttled between various prep schools before his parents finally settled on the Valley Forge Military Academy in 1934. He graduated from Valley Forge in 1936 and attended a number of colleges, including Columbia University, but did not graduate from any of them. While at Columbia, Salinger took a creative writing class in which he excelled, cementing the interest in writing that he had maintained since his teenage years.

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Holden

  • protagonist
  • we see novel through his eyes
  • aged 16
  • language typical of a teenagers at the time
  • witty
  • troubled young man
  • strong sense of moral values
  • yearns for the innocence of childhood
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Phoebe

  • Holden's younger sister
  • likes going to the movies
  • intelligent and inquisitive
  • grown up for her age
  • represents innocence for Holden
  • main reason for Holden going home
  • she cares about Holden
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Robert Ackley

  • important character early in the novel
  • described as unpopular
  • outsider like Holden, but for different reasons
  • last person Holden sees before leaving Pencey
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Ward Stradlater

  • described by Holden as handsome and popular with girls
  • portrayed as the 'model' for society's idea of what a young man his age should be like
  • contrast to Holden
  • causes Holden to leave Pencey early
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Jane Gallagher

  • Although we never meet Jane she is a major character as she occupies so much of Holden's thoughts
  • she is portrayed as Holden's perfect companion
  • indirectly another reason for Holden leaving
  • Holden fights Stradlater because he believes he has behaved badly with Jane
  • She represents a beautiful memory for Holden and he doesn't want to ruin it
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Language

Narrative Style

Spoken language features - uses pronoun 'I' to bring Holden alive, also uses first person address to make the reader feel they are being spoken to directly

Holden's Voice - Holden has many stock phrases which are repeated often which gives the impression somebody is actually talking. The repetition of phrases also shows that he wants us to believe him but he is afraid we won't. He also digresses

Swear Words - He uses swear words although today they seem mild. He has a limited set of insults such as 'you moron'. He also uses the word ******* to describe how he feels or to describe somebody else which creates the feeling of a real spoken voice.

Exaggeration - Another characteristic of Holden's language is his tendency to exaggerate. This is a way in which the humorous side of Holden is presented. Holden always exaggerates to describe someone.

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More Language

Vague Expression - Holden expresses his feelings and emotions is made vague. Holden often says he doesn't know why he likes something or why he said something. He doesn't seem to be able to draw conclusions to what he is thinking, this is associated with teenagers. Holden can't explain his emotions

Use of Dialogue - Sallinger makes great use of dialogue in this book. One of the main ways that the reader gets an impression of the different characters is by the way they speak and what they say. We don't learn much from Holdens descriptions. It also creates the effect we are meeting the characters with Holden

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