Narrative And Voice In The Catcher In The Rye

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Extended essay: Narrative and voice in The Catcher in the Rye

One of the primary elements that shape a reader’s initial impression of a text is its narrative. Such a role is inflated in texts which are character-driven, as is with J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. This essay examines the unorthodox voice of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, specifically, how its stylistic features create incoherence and unreliability.

The Catcher in the Rye is a first-person narrative told from Holden’s point of view. Holden is a 16-year-old boy who, we find out at the start of the book, has flunked out of school yet again. He takes his expulsion in stride, perhaps more so than he should – an observation corroborated by how this is
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From chapter 3, we hear Holden describing himself as such: ‘I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life.’ That in itself may not amount to more than an assertion, but Holden goes on to provide supporting examples: in his conversation with Ernest Morrow’s mother on the train in chapter 8, Holden makes up an entire story about how ‘shy and modest’ Ernest is at school. In chapter 17, when he’s on a date with an old friend, Sally Hayes, he unreasonably lies about his intentions and feelings. ‘I told her (Sally) I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it.’ (chapter 17) ‘I don't even know why I started all that stuff with her (Sally). I mean about going away somewhere, to Massachusetts and Vermont and all. I probably wouldn't've taken her even if she'd wanted to go with me.’ (chapter 17) One of Holden’s catchphrases is ‘if you want to know the truth’, which suggests that a lot of the time, Holden holds back information or twists it during presentation. With dishonesty being such a recurring theme in his actions, the reader cannot help but ask when at all Holden is being
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