Use Of Language In Catcher In The

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Use Of Language In Catcher In The Rye Essay, Research Paper The Language of Catcher in the Rye The passage of adolescence has served as the central theme for many novels, but J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, long a staple in academic lesson plans, has captured the spirit of this stage of life in hypersensitive form, dramatizing Holden Caulfield’s vulgar language and melodramatic reactions. Written as the autobiographical account of a fictional teenage prep school student, Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye deals with material noted by a number of critics to deal with—the comic irony, the colloquial language, the picaresque structure, and the theme of anti-phonies that could even link Holden Caulfield to Huckleberry Finn. Notably in language, it is displayed

in relating the two, the reader goes through a similar pattern throughout adolescence (Gwynn 29). As an emotional, intelligent, inquisitive, and painfully sensitive young man, Holden puts his inner world to the test through the sexual mores of his peers and elders, the teachings of his education, and his own emerging sense of self. Throughout the years, the language of the story has startled some readers. Salinger’s control of Holden’s easy, conversational manner makes the introductions of these larger themes appear natural and believable. At the time of the novel through today, Holden’s speech rings true to the informal speech of teenagers. The study of the language in this story “can be justified not only on the basis of literary interest, but also on the basis of

linguistic significance” (Costello 44). Such speech includes both simple description and cursing. For example, Holden says, “They’re nice and all”, as well as, “I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything” (Salinger 3). In the first instance, he uses the term “nice” which extremely simplifies 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 when he states he will not tell his “whole goddam autobiography or anything.” From the start, the reader picks up Holden’s hostility and unwillingness to share his views strictly by his use of language. From the last two examples, another

different dialect can be seen. Holden has a habit of ending his descriptions with tag phrases such as “and all” or “or anything.” Not only does Holden speak like this in the beginning of the novel, but throughout the book, making this pattern 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. It is also thought that “Salinger ‘imposed upon a tacky age the style that it lacked’” (Salzman 13). Salinger intentionally used such speech patterns to help individualize Holden, yet to also make him a believable teenager of the early 1950’s (Salzman

13). Another example of how Holden’s speech helped define his character is how he constantly had to confirm any affirmation he made, as if even he did not quite believe himself. Such reconfirmations include phrases such as “…if you want to know the truth,” or “…it really does.” Holden says the first phrase several times. “I have no wind, if you want to know the truth,” “I’m pacifist, if you want to know the truth,” and a variation: “She had a lot of sex appeal, too, if you really want to know.” In each of the above instances, Holden makes a statement then feels compelled to clarify that is he is not making it up but is, in fact, telling the truth. These mannerisms may point to several aspects of his character. For example, Holden is on the verge of