The Catcher in the Rye


Chapter 1 to Chapter 5

Chapter 1

Holden presents himself to the reader as the antithesis of the Dickensian hero. He glories in his lack of romanticism and his ability to be frank and candid. His blunt honesty could easily be mistaken for cynicism, but there is a naivety and innocence which he manifests in his thought patterns. He uses the slang of his day—justified on account of his youth—but he also displays a depth of personality that could easily place him beyond his years. He is both interested in himself and yet knows that he is really not all that interesting, which is why he is only going to relate to the reader the “madman stuff.”

His narrative proceeds in a fluid, stream-of-conscious delivery style whereby he skips the typical introductions that a more intimate auto-biographer might offer. For example, he quickly introduces his parents but then just as quickly abandons them as a topic: a) because they would object to having anything about them told in public; and b) because it would be boring anyway. Instantly, Holden has revealed himself as a disaffected youth—endearing himself to the reader by a kind of personal impersonality: he knows the reader is not likely to care for back-story. After all, it is Holden’s contention that no one really seems to care about anything.

But, of course, he cares and that is why he is where he is—looking back on his strange pilgrimage. He expects to be taken home soon by his brother D. B. who works in Hollywood and makes lots of money. He expresses a fondness for his brother—but that fondness is rooted in a memory he has of his brother having written a short story of genuine honesty. Now his brother works for the movies. Holden makes the statement that he does not like movies. Implicit in the declaration is the idea that movies are shallow and Holden cannot stand shallowness masquerading as depth.

Now he turns to reflecting on the beginning of the journey, his leave from Pencey Prep in Pennsylvania. Although he derides the school for being...

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