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, conversational manner makes the introduction of these larger themes appear natural and believable. (Bloom, 1990).
At the time of the novel, and even 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 blatant 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." In the first instance, he uses the term "nice" which oversimplifies his parents' character. This wording of his phrase implies that he does not wish to disrespect them, yet at the same time he does not intend to 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 stat...
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...nage angst is apparent, Salinger carefully crafted Holden's vocabulary to create a character who would be believable. As Holden's vocabulary and outlook on life demonstrate his character as a fictional persona, the realistic flavor of his vocabulary mixed with emotion unfailingly ties him to the harsh realities of adolescence and the youth of his time.
Bloom, HB. Major Literary Characters: Holden Caulfield. Chelsea House Publishers. New York, 1990.
Costello, DP. The Language of the Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield. Cambridge, New York; Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Gwynn, F. The Fiction of JD Salinger. University of Pittsburg Press. 1958
Salinger, JD. The Catcher in the Rye, Little, Brown and Co. Boston, 1951.
Salzman, J. The American Novel: New Essays on the Catcher in the Rye. Cambridge University Press, 1991.
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