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Use of Language in Catcher in the Rye

The Language of Catcher in the Rye The passage of adolescence has served as the central theme for many novels, but J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, long a staple in academic lesson plans, has captured the spirit of this stage of life in hypersensitive form, dramatizing Holden Caulfield's vulgar language and melodramatic reactions. Written as the autobiographical account of a fictional teenage prep school student, Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye deals with material noted by a number of critics to deal with—the comic irony, the colloquial language, the picaresque structure, and the theme of anti-phonies that could even link Holden Caulfield to Huckleberry Finn. Notably in language, it is displayed in relating the two, the reader goes through a similar pattern throughout adolescence (Gwynn 29). As an emotional, intelligent, inquisitive, and painfully 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 some readers. Salinger's control of Holden's easy, conversational manner makes the introductions of these larger themes appear natural and believable. At the time of the novel through today, Holden's speech rings true to the informal speech of teenagers. The study of the language in this story “can be justified not only on the basis of literary interest, but also on the basis of linguistic significance” (Costello 44). Such speech includes both simple description and 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" (Salinger 3). In the first instance, he uses the term "nice" which extremely simplifies his parents' character, implying he does not wish to disrespect them, yet at the same time he does not praise them. At best, he de...

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