The Catcher in The Rye - How does Salinger present the character of Holden in the opening pages of the text?

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How does Salinger present the character of Holden in the opening pages of the text?

Salinger uses a variety of linguistic and literary techniques to create a realistic voice for the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, and to give the reader an idea of how this is achieved and presents the major concerns and thoughts of the character and the novel through these techniques.

Salinger attempts to create the voice of a contemporary teenager through writing in the vernacular of this intended voice - the use of crude, colloquial lexis that Holden uses resembles this through his repetitive and continuous use of “phony” throughout the novel, for example “what a phony slob he is.” The use of colloquial language, coupled with the protagonists conditional direct address to the reader “If you really want to know”, is used by Salinger as an allusion to Holden being somewhat reluctant to telling us about himself and his past which leans the reader towards thinking that Holden is not well and that there may be something in his past which has caused Holden to be the way he is. The conditional also suggests that Holden views his life as boring and uninteresting, ergo the intensifier “really” and the conditional “if” are used by Salinger to convey Holden’s minor reluctance. In addition, the direct address also creates an immediate tenor with the audience which is engaging for the reader. Moreover, the reader learns that the protagonist is a social pariah –“the whole school was there except me” – an outcast that actively rebels against society and life and this is the reason the character adopts a studied boredom approach to questions.

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Furthermore, Salinger reinforces Holden’s apparent dismissive attitude towards his own life through the use of the literary reference “David Copperfield kind of crap”. This conveys the impression that the protagonist does not think his life is worth telling when, further on, it becomes apparent that Holden does actually want to tell the reader about the “madman stuff” that has happened to him. The reader learns that Holden is uncertain about his future and, indeed, his life in general through the vague expression “when I go home next month maybe.” This makes the reader wonder if Holden is well mentally and ...

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