Catcher in the Rye - Through Holden's Eyes


The Catcher in the Rye has truly earned it's place among great classic works. J. D. Salinger created a literary piece that was completely unique. The entire novel was written in the first person view of the 17-year-old, Holden Caulfield. The majority of the story is compiled of Holden's rudimentary monologue of 'complexly simple' thoughts, the rest utilizing his relay of previous dialogue. That and the use of unique punctuation, digressing explanations, and complex characterization, transformed the simple plot into the complex literary classic.

The novel's dialogue and monologue alike, manage to relay the feel of natural speaking such as:
"I mean you'd be different in some way - I can't explain what I mean."

The contractions; you'd and can't - since they are common in everyday language - establish a very common and simple tone. Stress on the first syllable of "different," reinforces the tone by demonstrating how typically they speak, just as in reality. He uses dashes for pauses and signaling associative digressions. Instead of signaling pauses, commas are used mostly where mechanically required, for instance:
"So all of a sudden, I ran like a madman across the street - I damn near got myself killed doing it, if you want to know the truth - and went in this stationary store and bought a pad and pencil."

Holden Caulfield creates a thought provoking point of view. On the surface many of his thought patterns seem unrelated and straying from the topic. His association of topic with digression is used almost constantly throughout the novel. However, realizing that these digressions are very relevant and even crucial to the topic allow the reader to gain true insight to the character. His statements about his sister's intelligence, followed by explanations of how well she listens, reveals Holden's associations of intelligence with being quiet and observant. Another example would be his tension around the nuns. Even though he enjoyed the conversation, he worried about being asked if he was Catholic. He stated they "...would have liked it better if he were Catholic." This gives insight to his discomfort with being judged morally, and to his association of people of morals looking down on those who don't share them.

In Holden's descriptions and thoughts, Salinger accomplished the most unique aspect of the story's point-of-view. Instead of using the popular - however overrated - style of well refined thoughts and flowery descriptions, Salinger describes things as they are perceived upon a first impression. Naturally the human mind does not instantly process first encounters or experiences into drawn out rhetorical metaphors. We must think about them first, relate and compare them to past experiences, then form associations. This is based on Jean Piaget theory of assimilating new situations, accommodating them with previous knowledge, then forming generalizations for understanding, called schemas. [Houghton-Mifflin Psychology, pgs. 49-50] That is exactly how Salinger describes Holden's thoughts. Holden, like us all, has difficulty explaining things until they have been thought through. For instance, Holden observes Stradlater's grooming and his looks. Then he compares it to the way guys look in yearbooks, and what parents say about them. Last he concludes, through comparison, that Stradlater is the kind of guy that your parents ask about. He states: "I've had that experience quite frequently."

In the more descriptive writings of other authors, it is difficult to relate to the complex associations. The majority of thought inspired by these works can sometimes be just to figure out the point. However, Salinger expresses the thought patterns of Holden in the same inherent ways that all humans think, and through that, relays a strong tone of realism and active thought. Despite the lack of dazzling rhetoric, Salinger's descriptions are no less intricate. They inspire a more natural style of analyzation that most can relate to easily. A more logical and linear path, relating to typical primal human thought, is followed instead of abstract reasoning and artistic representation.

Finally, the elements previously discussed, and a few independent ones, will be used to examine the characterization of Holden Caulfield. Such as how Caulfield's tendency toward constant introspection and analyzing of his world, his digression of topics, and the nature in which he speaks, gives us clues to his character.

His level of intelligence is in no way reflected by his lack of knowledge on trivial issues. He is adept at reasoning the things around him. Almost all of the insight