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What are a few of the rhetorical devices J.D. Salinger uses to enforce his symbols?I am...

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risingfallens | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 20, 2010 at 1:27 AM via web

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What are a few of the rhetorical devices J.D. Salinger uses to enforce his symbols?

I am being asked to write a research essay on how an author uses rhetorical devices to prove thier theme. In The Catcher in the Rye, one big theme is the loss of innocence. How does Salinger use rhetorical devices to help prove his point?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 21, 2010 at 2:08 AM (Answer #1)

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In literature, a rhetorical device is when an author uses language to create a literary effect without any regard for literal meaning. An author uses such devices to get his meaning across or to emphasize his theme. These devices are creative ways of expressing ideas and themes. Symbolism is one of these rhetorical devices, so I am not certain I am clear on what you really need to know. Do you want to know what other rhetorical devices Salinger uses to enforce his symbols or do you want to know how Salinger uses rhetorical devices to help prove his point, as you say in the second part of your question?

The main symbols in this novel are Holden’s red hunting cap, which is a kind of security blanket for him. He feels safe and protected and not so messed up when he wears it. The ducks in Central Park are another symbol. They represent hope for Holden because when the pond freezes over, they leave, but they always return. This cycle gives him comfort. The Robert Burns poem from which the phrase “catcher in the rye” comes is also a symbol. It represents Holden’s desire to “catch” children before they become adults and thus morph into phonies.

If you need to know how these symbols are presented with other rhetorical devices, look for places in the novel where the hunting cap appears and see if there are any uses of other rhetorical devices such as irony, metaphor, simile, etc. Do the same for the “catcher in the rye” phrase. In this case, Holden really has mistaken the lyrics because they are really “if a body meet a body comin’ through the rye” not “if a body catch a body” – so this is the rhetorical device of antithesis. Other rhetorical devices are alliteration, allusion, assonance, caricature, cliché, epiphany, foreshadowing, hyperbole (lots of these in this novel), idiom, imagery, irony, metaphor, motif (i.e. loneliness and isolation  in this novel), oxymoron, paradox – I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch.

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