The Catcher in the Rye: J. D. Salinger: Use of Location and Change

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Choose a novel in which the novelist makes use of more than one location. Discuss how the use of different locations allows the novelist to develop the central concern(s) of the text

The novel, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is a powerful story by J.D. Salinger. It takes the form of a spoken recollection by the main character, Holden Caulfield, who has suffered a mental breakdown and is reminiscing his time before he arrived at the sanatorium into a tape recorder. Salinger has excellent use of location to explore the themes of change and stasis in this novel and also explore the character of Holden Caulfield.

The general setting of the novel in New York is significant because the environment helps to underline the lonliness of Holden.

‘New York’s terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed.’

New York is a city filled with people, Holden is surrounded by people enjoying themselves. He hates this because unlike everyone he sees, he has no one, which is why he feels so lonely. The general setting of New York is also the location of other places of significance to Holden.

Within the city of New York, Salinger uses specific locations to symbolise change and stasis. The first use of location to explore the themes in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is Holden’s obsession with the duck pond in central park and where they went ’when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over’. Holden frequently is asking this question. This starts Salinger’s portrayal of Holden’s obsession with change. The thought of the ducks leaving makes him uncomfortable. Our understanding of this obsession is enhanced when Holden goes to the lagoon and looks for the ducks. He starts to think about his own death, and the death of Allie. We can see that Allie’s death was a significant change in his life, and may have been the cause of his fear of change.

A location in which symbolises stasis is the museum in...
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