The Catcher In the Rye: First Person Narration is Critical


In J.D. Salinger\'s The Catcher in the Rye, the first person narration
is critical in helping the reader to know and understand the main character,
Holden Caulfield. Holden, in his narration, relates a flashback of a
significant period of his life, three days and nights on his own in New York
City. Through his narration, Holden discloses to the reader his innermost
thoughts and feelings. He thus provides the reader not only with information of
what occurred, but also how he felt about what happened.
Holden\'s thoughts and ideas reveal many of his character traits. One
late Saturday night, four days before the beginning of school vacation, Holden
is 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 in
New York, he will stay in a cheap motel until Wednesday, when he is to return
home. His plan shows the reader how very impetuous he is and how he acts on a
whim. He is unrealistic, thinking that he has a foolproof plan, even though
the extent of his plans are to "take a room in a hotel.., and just take it easy
till Wednesday."
Holden\'s excessive thoughts on death are not typical of most
adolescents. His near obsession with death might come from having experienced
two 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, Holden
brings Allie\'s baseball mitt along with him where ever he goes. The mitt has
additional meaning and significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry,
which Holden reads, on the baseball mitt. Holden\'s preoccupation with death
can be seen in his contemplation of a dead classmate, James Castle. It tells
the reader something about Holden that he lends his turtleneck sweater to this
classmate, with whom he is not at all close.
Holden\'s feelings about people reveal more of his positive traits. He
constantly calls people phonies, even his brother, D.B., who " has sold out to
Hollywood." Although insulting, his seemingly negative feelings show that
Holden is a thinking and analyzing, outspoken individual who values honesty and
sincerity. 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 his
flunking out of school would seem to be from a lack of interest.
Holden has strong feelings of love towards children as evidenced
through 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 that
she not learn from the graffiti. His fondness for children can be inferred
when he tells her that, at some time in the future, he wants to be the only
grown-up with "all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye
and all." He\'ll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch anybody who starts to
fall off the edge of the cliff. He got this image from his misinterpretation
of a line from the Robert Burns poem, " if a body catch a body comin\' through
the rye."
When situations are described, in person or in a book, they are
influenced by the one who describes them, and by his or her perceptions and
experiences. Through Holden\'s expressions of his thoughts and feelings, the
reader sees a youth, sensitive to his surroundings, who chooses to deal with
life in unique ways. Holden is candid, spontaneous, analytical, thoughtful,
and sensitive, as evidenced by his narration. Like most adolescents, feelings
about people and relationships are often on his mind. Unfortunately, in
Holden\'s case, he seems to expect the worst, believing that the result of
getting close to people is pain. Pain when others reject you or pain when they
leave you, such as when a friend walks off or a beloved brother dies. It would
not have been possible to feel Holden\'s feelings or understand his thoughts
nearly as well had the book been written in third person.

Category: English