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In The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, through Holden Caufield, uses the following elements of diction:
- Tone: Holden’s voice is implicitly male voice
- American voice
- Folksy voice
- Youthful, teenage voice with adult voice behind it
- verbal irony (sarcasm, overstatement, understatement): "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."
- conversational style:
- simple, direct language: "All morons hate it when you call them a moron."
- colloquial (slang): calls homosexuals "flits"
- lots of repetition: "phonies"
- cussing: "Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell."
- many digressions: "It's no fun to be yellow. Maybe I'm not all yellow. I don't know. I think maybe I'm just partly yellow and partly the type that doesn't give much of a damn if they lose their gloves."
- Narration: Holden is unreliable narrator
- conditional opening: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me
- anti-Freudian (don’t psycho-analyze Holden’s lousy childhood)
- episodic plot (like The Odyssey, Huck Finn)
- Anti-European: “…and all that David Copperfield kind of crap” (Dickens); most European characters define themselves in context of family; Holden is saying that he doesn’t define himself with others or the past (birth of the American rebel)
- Use of Language
- Anaphora: (repetition at beginning of sentence) : “It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomch.”
- Metaphor: “Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them”
- Alliteration: “crazy cannon”; “we can smoke till they start screaming at us”
- Irony: It’s really ironical, because I’m six foot two and a half and I have gray hair.”
- Hyperbole: “The one side of my head—the right side—is full of millions of gray hairs.”
- Dramatic Irony: (dominant figure of speech in the novel)—although Holden acknowledges that he has faults and weaknesses, he fails to realize how immature and maladjusted he really it
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