The form of diction used in The Catcher in the Rye is a topic on which many people are strongly opinionated. Because the narrator speaks solely in the vernacular, the novel is ripe with vulgar language. Most of this language is used to characterize Holden, the protagonist and narrator, as a typical American teenager living in the late 1940s or early 1950s, but some of it is utilized to convey Salinger’s theme of innocence versus corruption. When Holden is walking through his sister Phoebe’s school, he sees a scrawl on the wall saying “Fuck you.” He imagines the writing was etched by “some perverty bum that’d sneaked in the school late at night to take a leak or something” (260-61). Again in the museum, Holden encounters another such sign. Both the school and the museum are places he identifies with his childhood, but they have been perverted by the corruption of the world. He is concerned for the children who will inevitably see these signs and be told what they mean by “some dirty kid…all cockeyed, naturally” (260), spoiling the children’s innocence. This is just one more step towards adulthood and corruption. He is disgusted by the people in the world, saying “You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write ‘Fuck yo...
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...ss shows once again the corruption of the world.
With his repetition of phrases such as “it really did” and “if you want to know,” his use of slang including “take a leak” and “booze hound,” and his coarse language, Holden gives the novel an upbeat, optimistic feeling, despite the book’s darker theme. Holden’s tone and diction allow the reader to relate to him and imagine him as a friend.
All of these are components of J. D. Salinger’s writing style. While the tone of The Catcher in the Rye may suggest a lighthearted, entertainment centered novel, the work is, in actuality, a deep study of human emotion and sympathy, as well as a dark portrait of the wickedness in the world.
Burns, Robert. “Coming Through the Rye.” Passions in Poetry. N.p. n.d. Web. 28 January 2010.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. 1951. New York: Back Bay Books, 2001. Print.
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