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The Catcher in the Rye is obviously a very symbolic book. But I don't understand what...

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josephobx | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 29, 2012 at 9:38 PM via web

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The Catcher in the Rye is obviously a very symbolic book. But I don't understand what slapstick, quest narrative, outside frames, and inside frames are. 

Any help with even one of the four would be great! 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM (Answer #1)

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Holden tells the story in retrospect and because of the stream of consciousness style, he moves back and forth from retrospect (from the institution) to narrating as if the events are presently happening. The outside frame of the story is Holden narrating in retrospect. The inside frame, the times at Pencey and New York City, is the world of the story itself. So, the outside (peripheral) frame is the telling. And the inside (central) is the story. You can tell when Holden shifts to inside narration. This is when he talks as if the events are happening now. He moves back out when he speaks, looking back on these events.


As far as slapstick goes, look for moments when Holden is in an awkward or emotional situation which is accompanied by a physical mishap or physical comedy. In Chapter 7, when Holden begins to feel sad about leaving Pencey, he nearly falls down. Also, in Chapter 13, during one of the more awkward moments in the novel, Holden trips over a suitcase when he walks in with the prostitute. The reader might find these slapstick moments humorous, pathetic or even with sympathy.


A quest narrative is a story, sometimes an epic, in which a character goes on a quest in pursuit of some object or goal, usually encountering obstacles and challenges (some being slapstick) along the way. Holden is on a quest in search of knowledge, genuine experience, identity and an adult who is not a phony. Some critics suppose that the latter may be a search for a father figure. Other examples of quest narratives are Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Divine Comedy, and The Odyssey. 



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