CriticalThe Catcher In the Rye: First Person Narration is CriticalIn J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the first person narrationis critical in helping the reader to know and understand the main character,Holden Caulfield. Holden, in his narration, relates a flashback of asignificant period of his life, three days and nights on his own in New YorkCity. Through his narration, Holden discloses to the reader his innermostthoughts and feelings.
He thus provides the reader not only with information ofwhat occurred, but also how he felt about what happened. Holden’s thoughts and ideas reveal many of his character traits. Onelate Saturday night, four days before the beginning of school vacation, Holdenis alone, bored and restless, wondering what to do. He decides to leave Pencey,his school, at once and travels to New York by train. He decides that, once inNew York, he will stay in a cheap motel until Wednesday, when he is to returnhome. His plan shows the reader how very impetuous he is and how he acts on awhim.
He is unrealistic, thinking that he has a foolproof plan, even thoughthe extent of his plans are to “take a room in a hotel. . , and just take it easytill Wednesday. “Holden’s excessive thoughts on death are not typical of mostadolescents. His near obsession with death might come from having experiencedtwo deaths in his early life.
He constantly dwells on Allie, his brother’s,death. From Holden’s thoughts, it is obvious that he loves and misses Allie. In order to hold on to his brother and to minimize the pain of his loss, Holdenbrings Allie’s baseball mitt along with him where ever he goes. The mitt hasadditional meaning and significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry,which Holden reads, on the baseball mitt. Holden’s preoccupation with deathcan be seen in his contemplation of a dead classmate, James Castle.
It tellsthe reader something about Holden that he lends his turtleneck sweater to thisclassmate, with whom he is not at all close. Holden’s feelings about people reveal more of his positive traits. Heconstantly calls people phonies, even his brother, D. B. , who ” has sold out toHollywood. ” Although insulting, his seemingly negative feelings show thatHolden is a thinking and analyzing, outspoken individual who values honesty andsincerity.
He is unimpressed with people who try to look good in other’s eyes. Therefore, since it is obvious that Holden is bright, the reason for hisflunking out of school would seem to be from a lack of interest. Holden has strong feelings of love towards children as evidencedthrough his caring for Phoebe, his little sister. He is protective of her,erasing bad words from the walls in her school and in a museum, in order thatshe not learn from the graffiti. His fondness for children can be inferredwhen he tells her that, at some time in the future, he wants to be the onlygrown-up with “all these little kids playing some game in this big field of ryeand all. ” He’ll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch anybody who starts tofall off the edge of the cliff.
He got this image from his misinterpretationof a line from the Robert Burns poem, ” if a body catch a body comin’ throughthe rye. “When situations are described, in person or in a book, they areinfluenced by the one who describes them, and by his or her perceptions andexperiences. Through Holden’s expressions of his thoughts and feelings, thereader sees a youth, sensitive to his surroundings, who chooses to deal withlife in unique ways. Holden is candid, spontaneous, analytical, thoughtful,and sensitive, as evidenced by his narration.
Like most adolescents, feelingsabout people and relationships are often on his mind. Unfortunately, inHolden’s case, he seems to expect the worst, believing that the result ofgetting close to people is pain. Pain when others reject you or pain when theyleave you, such as when a friend walks off or a beloved brother dies. It wouldnot have been possible to feel Holden’s feelings or understand his thoughtsnearly as well had the book been written in third person.English