Catcher in the Rye Essay: The Importance of Language

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The Importance of Language in The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has captured the spirit of adolescence, dramatizing Holden Caulfield's vulgar language and melodramatic reactions. Written as the autobiographical account of a fictional teenage prep school student named Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye deals with material that is socially scandalous for the time (Gwynn, 1958). As an emotional, intelligent, and 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 readers. Salinger's control of Holden's easy,
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Another colloquialism can be seen in the last two examples. Holden has a habit of ending his descriptions with tag phrases such as "and all" or "or anything." (Salzman, 1991). 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," and realize it is a character trait of his, since not all teenagers used that phrase. Therefore, 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 individualize Holden but also to make him a believable teenager of the early 1950's.

Another example of how Holden's speech helped define his character is his constant need to confirm his own affirmations, as if even he did not quite believe himself. These confirmations include phrases such as "...if you want to know the truth," or " really does." Holden repeats the first phrase several times throughout the novel: "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 and then feels compelled to clarify that is he is not making it
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