Catcher in the Rye Questions

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1.The novel can be described as a bildungsroman genre, in other words, a rite of passage novel. In what way does Holden experience a rite of passage?

The rite of passage experienced by Holden in the text involves the original identity of Holden: a typical representation of the angst teen, susceptible to extreme dips between depression and contentedness, who has a profound distaste for most of society fed by his belief he has the ability to read behaviour to determine the motives of human beings and in short prove the ‘phoney’ nature of almost everyone. His character alter through one pivotal moment in the text, where he satisfies a desperate need to be close to someone by spending time with his little sister, the perfect representation of innocence, and ultimately realizes the potential of genuinely un-phoney entities, and therefore a reason to desist with his marginalized existence, and enjoy life!

2.Comment on the tone of the novel. Include specific examples in your answer.

There is no doubt ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is a depressing read. Through the eyes of the narrator, Holden, a pessimistic teen, a materialistic, empty and cold world is depicted, lacking in any substance. Short sentences give a blunt tone: ‘the Goddam movies. They can ruin you. I’m not kidding’ and contrary to drawn out, floury sentences, the Catcher moves at a fast pace with little detailed descriptions and imagery utilized. The ever present profanity gives the reader a clear sense of a youthful viewpoint or else one significantly distanced from high society. Persuasive and abbreviated language contributes to a young, blunt and quick paced feel: ‘I swear you’d like her’. The book has a negative tone, even to the point that positive things have negative connotations: where Holden says ‘That killed me’ he is expressing contentedness.

3.How does Holden's use of vernacular (colloquialisms, slang and profanity) assist the reader?

Holden’s use of swearing (Goddam, Chrissake) may be further evidence to show the reader his non-conformist attitude. People are often telling him to ‘cut it out’ yet his persistence contributes to his inept social habits. Using language popular in his context (‘the other two grools nearly had hysterics’, ‘tossed their cookies’) indicates an attempted trendy vocabulary and youthful outlook which hints to the reader Holden’s juvenility. They also give the whole text a bitter feel, rich with negative connotations. Using words such as Goddam as an adjective immediately sheds a pessimistic light on the noun and perfectly captures -and indicates to the reader- the contempt Holden has for it. 4.Salinger has characterized Holden as an iconoclastic outsider or misfit. Describe Holden; his appearance and personality.

Holden has a blunt and somewhat socially unaccepted personality. His use of profanity and sarcasm are frequently frowned upon and he enjoys compulsive lying, for entertainments sake. On the surface, Holden attempts to come across as cool and mature. He smokes, drinks and participates in activities (such as going to clubs and hiring prostitutes) that are familiar to –in his opinion- a phoney demographic which furthermore makes him somewhat hypocritical. Underneath the surface it is evident Holden still has an immature mind. Being unable to commit or apply himself let alone decide how he feels about someone, and stay true to that opinion before the end of an encounter are all testimony to that. His despise for the adult world, love for children, desire to be ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and his inability to actually have sex with the prostitute he hired highlights a childlike and mentally immature nature. Classic of a teenager, Holden more than often has a depressing outlook on life. His frequent periods spent bursting into tears and not knowing why, gives the impression Holden suffers a deep, bottled up and misunderstood depression, which causes a strange, cold behaviour to be...
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