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In JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, a post war novel written in 1953 is about a troubled teenager named Holden Caulfield, who struggles with loss of innocence and the fact that everyone has to grow up. He yearns for perfection. He illustrates individualism and alienation in adolescents in American society, and JD Salinger uses symbolism and irony to get this point across to his audience. Holden?
s language, his colloquial speech of teenagers above all provides the excitement, surprises and clues to the character. It is his speech; that help define his character the best. The book gets its title from Holden's constant concern with the loss of innocence. To protect the innocent, to keep children away from maturity, and the corrupted society. He did not want children to grow up because he felt that adults are corrupt. This is seen when Holden tries to erase naughty words from the walls of an elementary school where his younger sister Phoebe attended.
While I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody d written Fuck you on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how theyd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how theyd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever written it. I figured it was some poverty bum that sneaked in the school late at night to take a leak or something and then wrote it on the wall.
I kept picturing myself catching him at it, and how Id smash his head on the stone steps till hew as good and goddam dead and bloody. (Salinger, p. 201) His dream of shielding all the innocent children from society? s harsh elements has been ruined by this one statement. Now because of this realization, he comes to the conclusion that he cannot shield everybody, not even half of everybody. An example of Holden trying to be the catcher in the rye is when Holden first sees the f you on the wall. ? It drove me damn near crazy.
I thought how Phoebe and all the other kids would see it, and how they? d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally what it meant, and how they? d think about it even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever? d written it? (Salinger 201). ? Holden wants to stop children from falling into losing their innocence and becoming an adult, and he takes pleasure in the attempted thwarting of maturation. ? (Hamilton, 1988) He wanted to be what he called a catcher in the rye. ?
and stand on a cliff assuring that children would not jump off to adulthood. I keep picturing all these kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's big but me. And Im standing on the edge of some crazy cliff -What do I have to do, I have to catch them. I mean their running, and they dont look where their going, so I must come out of somewhere and catch them. (Salinger, 173) Holden? s reaction to his awareness of the world?
s imperfection is what makes his dream of being the? catcher? of small children, ? saving them from the knowledge and the dangers of what he is slowly coming to realize is his? given? in life? (Bloom, 1990).
His brother Allie presents his admiration of youth and innocence. Holden idealizes Allie, mainly because he was never able to see him reach maturity. He died before he could lose his innocence, therefore leading Holden to believe that he represents perfection. Another example of perfection is the snowball scene in chapter five, which show? s Holden?
s compulsive longing for perfection. ? I went over to my window and opened it and packed a snowball with my bare hands? All I did was close the window and walk around the room with the snowball, packing it harder. (Salinger, p. 36). This scene gives Holden the object of perfection?
snow? . He sees this as a symbol of purity and innocence, and the car and the fire hydrant as to being related to purity and innocence, which should not be disturbed (Salzman, 1991). To Holden, this is a representation of what he unconsciously desires because he constantly strives to escape the corruption, violence, noise, and death that always seem to surround him. Salinger wanted to create a typical teenager but also wanted Holden to be an individual. Like most teenagers, Holden speaks in trite sentences however he also uses words in places that were then uncommon.
At the time of the novel through today, Holden's speech rings true to the colloquial speech of teenagers. ? Holden, according to many reviews in the Chicago Tribune, the New Yorker, and the New York Times, accurately captures the informal speech of an average intelligent, educated, northeastern American adolescent? (Costello, 1990). Such speech includes both simple description and cursing. For example, Holden says in many instance Theyre nice and all, as well as Im not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. (Salinger, p. 1) In the first instance, he uses the term nice which oversimplifies his parents character, implying he does not wish to disrespect them, yet at the same time he does not praise them.
At best he deems them as nice and all. Holden further cuts short his description, but in a more curt manner, when he states he will not tell his whole goddam autobiography or anything. (Salinger, p. 1) From the start, the reader picks up Holden's hostility and unwillingness to share his views strictly by his use of language (Salzman, 1991). Not only does Holden speak like this in the beginning of the novel, but also throughout the book, making this patterns a part of his character. One could imagine Holden frequently ending his sentences with and all, realizing it is a character trait since not all teenagers used that phrase. So the and all tag to Holden's speech served to make his speech authentic and individual. (Salzman, 1991).
Salinger intentionally used such speech patterns to help individualize Holden, yet to also make him a believable teenager of the early 1950 s. ? Like Madmen? , ? Old? , ? It killed me? , It really is, and? Like a bastard? are all placed in critical sentences to emphasize meaning (Salinger).
Holden uses these phrases to such an overpowering degree that they create a clear picture of Salinger? s style, and become a part of Holden himself (Costello, 1990). Also, Holden? s use of the word? phony? . The phoniness and corruption of society repulse Holden, and Salinger uses the word phony over 40 times to spotlight the worst of human nature.
At the end of the book, Holden seems to be much more mature. His key step was when he did not ride with Phoebe on the carousel. Holden only watched his sister ride along. In the center of the carousel, there was a gold ring.
The children riding on the carousel would reach for the gold ring in order to win a prize. All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid shed fall off the goddam horse, but I didnt say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but its bad if you say anything to them. (211) This carousel symbolizes life, and the constant journey of childhood into adulthood. Children would sometimes fall when striving to reach the gold ring in the center of life, or their complete success or adulthood. Holden would have yelled out to the children that it was dangerous to try to achieve this goal, but he realized that the children should go along the path of life by themselves.
At the carousel? Holden thinks of the golden rings pursued by the children. The ring is a symbol of phallic plenitude and as such is related to the imminence of castration (Mellard, p. 259). Throughout the book, Holden tried to save all children from growing up and losing their innocence. At the end of the novel, Holden crosses over a line of innocence to experience? he learns that?
you can? t ever find a place that? s nice and peaceful, because there isn? t any? ? Malcolm Bradbury criticizes. To Holden there are two types of people, the ones who are innocent like children or those who are child like at heart, and then there are the ones who are?
Phony? . He relies heavily on simple words and thoughts to express the majority of his feelings. This is Holden's way. He simply believes this is the right way to act and think. He needed to be the catcher in the rye. This results in his Protection of Innocence upbringing.
Bibliography Hamilton, Ian. In search of J. D Salinger. Random house: New York, 1988. 2) Bloom, HB. Major Literary Characters: Holden Caulfield.
Chelsea House Publishers. New York, 1990. 3) Salzman, J. The American Novel: New Essays on the Catcher in the Rye. Cambridge University Press, 1991. 4) Costello, DP. The Language of the Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield.
Cambridge, New York; Cambridge University Press, 1990. 5) Mellard, James M. ? The Disappearing Subject: A Lacanian Reading of the Catcher in the Rye. ?
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