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Catcher in the Rye: Diction and Syntax

Author's craft

Rosie Torres

on 10 September 2012

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Transcript of Catcher in the Rye: Diction and Syntax

There are many literary devices which help identify Salinger's style. The sentence structure of the writing is quite simple and it is not written in the style of an adult. Many examples can be found within the novel that helps reveal and develop a signature style by the author. "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."(16)
"God, I love it when a kid's nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are. They really are."(119)
"You think if they're intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don't give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do. They really do"(109) "Lawyers are all right, I guess...all you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink martinis and look like a hot-shot." The repetition of the word "and" lets the reader know that Holden talks like a child. for example, a child could say "Yesterday I went to the park and the store and then to my cousin's house and we played tag and ate." These are just a few examples that demonstrate how Holden's informal diction emphasize his characteristics. The reader is able to figure out that Holden is simple-minded and innocent due to the fact that he is somewhat illiterate, but there is a twist. Holden is completely aware that he is not great when it comes to speaking and that's where his maturity comes in. "I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and don't look where they're going I have to come out of somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all." (Chp. 22) -In this quote said by Holden, a major portion of the passage is a whole incomplete and run - on sentence. His lack of grammar, use of slang and lack of extensive word choice are all elements that are found in this passage.
-Holden is trying to get across that he wants to protect the innocence of children from a corrupt society. The characteristics switch in tone and in subject are a signature style of an adolescent as they are suffering from some sort of emotional condition just like Holden is. "What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don't care if it's sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse." The repetition in this quote spoken by Holden is used to emphasize the fact that he is looking for closure. He is leaving and wants to feel like that is actually happening. Holden does not want to leave any lose ends to later feel upset and regret leaving things that way. " I started thinking how old Phoebe would feel if I got pneumonia and died. It was a childish way to think, but I couldn't stop myself. She'd feel pretty bad if something like that happened. She likes me a lot. I mean she's quite fond of me. She really is." Holden describes many people throughout the novel. One person that he describes in the first chapter of the novel in Selma Thurmer. When Holden describes her, he mentions that she is not very good looking but has a very nice personality, that is why he liked her. To Holden, Phoebe is one of the very few people he does not lie to. Here he shows that she is also one of the few that he cares about. The repetition of the words 'she' and 'I'd" depict a strong connection between these siblings. Holden would do anything for his sister, he cares for her. His inner feelings are now revealed which shows that there is more to this "childish," boy. His exact words were" Old Selma Thurmer-she was the head masters daughter... She wasn't exactly the type that drove you mad with desire. She was a pretty nice girl, though. I sat next to her once in the bus from Agerstown and we sort of struck a conversation. I liked her. She had a big nose and her nails were all bitten down and bleedy-looking and she had on those damn falsies that point all over the place, but you felt sort of sorry for her. What i liked about her, she didn't give you a lot of horse manure about what a great guy her father was. She probably knew what a phony slob he was." (3) Holden's point of view shifts as he is describing Selma. He starts off with describing her personality. He mentioned very nice things about her; as he went more in depth about her description, he started mentioning how she looked physically. He also mentioned how she wasn't attractive enough for him, but tried to cover it up with another nice comment by saying that he liked the way she did not think she was all that just because her father was a "great guy." Catcher in the Rye:
Diction and Syntax One literary device used is allusion. The name of the novel is an allusion to a poem written by Robert Burns. When Holden says,"If a body catch a body comin' through the rye," he is alluding Burns line," If a body meet a body comin' through the rye." Basically, Holden wants to save children from the false belief of growing up, which also shows that he does not want to grow up. Another literary device used in the novel is irony. There is irony throughout the entire book but the situation used the most is when Holden calls every one he dislikes a phony, yet he does not realize he is a phony as well. He dislikes people who are fakes but throughout the entire novel we see him lie over and over again. He backs this up when he says, "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life." Our discussion in a nutshell:)
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