Text Response: the Catcher in the Rye

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Text Response: The Catcher in the Rye The novel, “The Catcher in he Rye”, written by J. D. Salinger was set in the late 1940 – early 1950s in New York. This novel explores the themes of loneliness, relationships and deception though the use of literary devices. Many symbols are used to enhance our understanding of the novel; such as Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat, the museum of Natural History, the ducks in Central Park Lagoon and the carousel. The author gives us an insight into the life of a young teenager facing physical and emotional exhaustion.

He struggles to understand and connect to the society. he uses self deception to view society as ‘phoney’: fake and not genuine. The author has achieved the purpose of this novel. The text is conveyed effectively to the reader. The colloquial style contains a tone that varies between disgust and bitterness; which strongly enhances our understanding of the novel. The narrative structure is presented as a flashback; requiring the reader to interpret the text based on their knowledge. The writing techniques are also used cleverly.

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The author describes the man characters psychological breakdown indirectly, yet the reader still recognises the breakdown. This is because the author uses two distinctive writing techniques. The setting of the novel also supports the themes of the novel. The whereabouts of Holden are rarely mentioned, yet this informs the readers the major themes of the novel: that Holden fears complexity and change. Holden Caulfield, the main character plays both the role of the protagonist and antagonist.

He narrates the novel in first person view and provides readers with a narrow view of events and people. He is a sixteen years old suffering from depression. There are obvious signs that Holden is troubled; he is hospitalised; he is unable to connect to the world around him; he fails four subjects out of five; and he lacks optimism towards his future. These events and problems are all conveyed effectively through the writing technique, narrative structure, setting and character development of the novel.

The distinctive writing techniques support the themes and characters of this novel very effectively. J. D. Salinger uses two important techniques to describe Holden’s mental instability indirectly. Firstly, he emphasises the contrast between Holden’s inner monologue and the actual actions that Holden does. For example, when Holden describes walking to the duck pond at night, he mentions that he had icicles in his hair and is worried about catching pneumonia; however, he does not consider it strange to walk outdoor with wet hair in freezing weather.

This seems unusual to the reader, and Salinger uses the strangeness, and the obliviousness to emphasise Holden’s mental instability. Another technique the author uses is to provide another characters response to Holden’s behaviour. For example, when Holden tries to persuade Sally to run away from society with him, she repeatedly asks him to stop shouting. However, in Holden’s inner monologue, he claims he wasn’t shouting, but we believe Sally. The author uses Sally’s angry and fearful response to tell the reader that Holden’s mental state is worse than what Holden admits.

The narrative structure is not obvious and can be interpreted in different ways depending on the reader. Either way, the understanding of the novel is not decreased. The main conflict is hidden within Holden’s mind. Part of Holden wants to connect with others on an adult level, while part of him wants to remain in childhood and reject the ‘phoniness’ of the society. Holden attempts to interact and understand other people throughout the novel, but fails. The climax of this novel is when Holden realises he cannot handle sexual encounters and begins to doubt his victimisation of others.

Another possible climax is when Holden realises he cannot protect himself and others from falling into adulthood. Eventually, he would have to give up rejecting “phoney” people because it is nature to grow old and change. The narrative structure is undecidable, because people can interpret it differently. This creates a comparison between Holden and the novel. The novel is unpredictable and messy, completely opposite to Holden’s idealised world/imagination; simple and understandable. Furthermore, the theme of this novel relies strongly on character development.

The three themes of the novel: the painfulness of growing up, alienation as a form of self defence and the phoniness of adulthood are all based on the main character, Holden. Throughout the novel, Holden seems to isolate himself from the world. As he says to Mr Spencer, he feels ‘trapped’ on ‘ the other side of life’, and he constantly attempts to fit in as well as protecting himself from maturity. As the novel progresses, we began to realise that Holden’s alienation is his way of protecting himself.

Just as he wears his red hunting hat as a sign of individuality, he uses isolation as a proof that he is better than everyone else around him. He never describes his own emotions directly, and never attempts to discover the source of his pain, which shows he desperately needs love and companion. This painfulness of growing up is another theme of “The Catcher in the Rye” that helps our understanding of the novel. Holden is growing into adulthood, yet, he resists it. He fears change and complexity and wants everything to be simple and predictable; just like childhood.

He rejects his fears and creates an idea that adulthood is superficial and “phoney”. As the novel progresses, his actions reveal the shallowness of his conceptions. The last theme of this novel is the phoniness of adulthood. In chapter 22, Holden explains that adults are phonies and are to oblivious to know they are phoney; yet, he does not directly observe his own phoniness. His deceptions are usually pointless and cruel, he also notes he is a liar. Phoniness is an excuse Holden uses to withdraw himself from the real world. Symbolism also plays a big part in the novel.

The red hunting hat is inseparable from Holden’s image; it is a symbol of his uniqueness and individuality. The hat is special looking; it shows Holden’s desires to be different from his surroundings. The hat therefore mirrors the conflict in the novel; Holden’s need for isolation and companionship. The ducks also give a special presence in the novel. Holden’s curiosity about the ducks’ whereabouts reveal a genuine, more youthful side to his character. this side of him creates a contrast with the usual grumpy side of Holden. The ducks are memorable as Holden lacks willingness in other aspects of life.

The ducks also symbolise change isn’t permanent, but cyclical because the ducks vanish but reappear. The pond is also a metaphor in Holden’s world; because it is “partly frozen and partly not frozen”. The pond is in transition between the two states, just as Holden is in transition between childhood and adulthood. The carousel is another symbol in the novel. “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring. You have to let them do it ___ If they fall off, they fall off:. This scene reflects the “catcher in the Rye” fantasy.

Holden has concluded that every child will eventually fall out of innocence into adulthood. Children will also learn about pain and failure; content and achievement; which are all aspects of life. Holden cannot prevent the children from adulthood. This recognition brings a huge emotional release for him and he begins to cry. Whether this is an action of defiance or acceptance, the novels ending is unclear. The setting of the novel also supports the understanding of the novel. The whereabouts change frequently, unlike Holden’s ideal world; simple and predictable.

He often withdraws from his appointments and is very undecidable on his destination; again, this juxtaposes against his ideal world. In some way, he is obnoxious and a hypocrite. In conclusion, the setting, character development, narrative structure and writing techniques all support the readers understandings of the novel. Readers also have a clear knowledge of the novel through the explorations of themes, motifs and symbolism. After reading this novel, all readers will understand that it is nature to grow old and change, no one can stop it, and “The Catcher in the Rye” is just a fantasy.

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