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What is the point of view in the novel and how does it affect the book and why?

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pjf12345 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 25, 2010 at 9:50 AM via web

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What is the point of view in the novel and how does it affect the book and why?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 25, 2010 at 9:56 AM (Answer #1)

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The point of view in this novel is first person.  Holden Caulfield is the narrator and he tells the whole story from his own point of view.  He talks about "I" and does not know things that he doesn't see.

I suppose that it affects the book by making it purely a book about him.  Everything is seen from his point of view and so all we get is his attitudes about things.  We do not know how other people see him.  We do not know if the other people are really the way he describes them.  Does Ackley really never brush his teeth?  Does Antolini really come on to Holden?

It's hard to know because this is all in the mind of some kind of strange 16 year old and so it's hard to know if he is telling the truth.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 25, 2010 at 10:01 AM (Answer #2)

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Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye is written in first-person point of view.  Specifically, Holden Caulfield is the first-person narrator.  As a result, the reader gets Caulfield's views on whatever he chooses to write about. 

And Caulfield's point of view is probably the main reason for the book's success.  The world as perceived through his experiences is what readers, especially young readers, identify with.  His adolescent take on the world is considered to be the voice of the post-WWII generation of teenagers. 

At the same time, his voice obviously captures the imaginations of generations since, as well, since the novel is still widely read today. 

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 25, 2010 at 10:38 AM (Answer #3)

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In The Catcher in the Rye, the point-of-view is first person flashback told in "sweet style" teenage vernacular arranged in an episodic structure to show a humorous and rebellious tone.  The narration also adds psychological depth of an alienated narrator caught in an unjust society.  The last two points below (K. & L.) are key.

Here are the nuts and bolts from my lecture notes:

I. Narration

A. Bildungsroman: novel of maturation

B. Coming-of-Age (apprenticeship novel)

C. Bookend structure: framed in California; story proper is Penn., NYC

D. Holden’s voice is implicitly male voice

E. American voice

F. Folksy voice

G. Youthful, teenage voice with adult voice behind it

1. conversational style

2. simple language

3. colloquial (slang)

4. lots of repetition

5. cussing

6. many digressions

H. Holden is unreliable narrator

I. Confession (“If you really want to hear about it…)

1. to a psychiatrist/psychologist?

2. to a priest, monk?

3. to Allie?

4. to Phoebe?

J. Narrating from a “rest home”

1. psychiatrist’s office?

2. mental facility?

3. D.B.’s pad?

K. Only rants and complains (no morals)

L. Holden is marginalized (exists on the fringes of society)

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