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What are some examples of beautiful figurative language in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in...

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brooklynn1994 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 5, 2012 at 2:46 AM via web

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What are some examples of beautiful figurative language in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye?

I need specific examples, like a passage and an explanation of why this passage shows imagery, sentence structure, voice, and/or figurative language.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted October 11, 2012 at 8:10 PM (Answer #1)

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At first thought, one might not think that any beautiful language would be found inCatcher in the Ryedue to the multiple uses of vulgarity on every page; but, absent from the realism of teenage talk, there are some great passages. The beautiful language is usually revealed when Holden is praising someone or something rather than criticising. For example, Holden remembers reading about Monsieur Blanchard, a character in a book who said something Holden liked. Holden summarized it by saying, "He said, in one part, that a woman's body is like a violin and all, and that it takes a terrific musician to play it right" (93). The comparison between playing a violin and touching a woman is beautiful even though Holden's choice of filler words are added therein (e.g. "and all"). Most of Holden's style of character comes through his descriptions of people like "booze hound" (79), "phonies," or "I know more **** perverts . . . than anybody you ever met, and they're always getting perverty when I'm around" (192). That last one is hilarious, but it certainly creates the sense of his character that drives home the idea of who Holden is.

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted April 19, 2015 at 8:14 PM (Answer #2)

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Like most books, Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger’s most successful novel, uses a number of figurative language devices to tell its story. The response above cites several similes and metaphors that Salinger uses to help characterize and advance his story. Besides simile and metaphor, there is another kind of figurative language called symbolism.

Symbolism is the use of one thing (like an image or idea) to represent a different thing. Writers and other artists create symbols all the time, often without the conscious knowledge of the reader. Even though we may not be aware that we are reading something symbolic, it still deepens the experience and helps the writer develop his themes.

In Catcher in the Rye the main character, Holden Caulfield, mentions the Central Park ducks three times. The first time, he is talking to a cab driver just after he has arrived in New York:

You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?

These ducks symbolize Holden in that they are unable to stay where they are. Holden has been expelled from several prep schools. The ducks have to leave when the pond freezes over, and Holden has to leave when he finally gets himself into too much trouble.

Later in the story he will ask someone else about the ducks. Nobody seems to know what happens to them. This mirrors Holden’s situation, in that he does not know what is going to happen to him. Finally, near the end of the story, Holden goes to the pond, but cannot find the ducks anywhere. Shortly afterwards he has some kind of breakdown and has to be hospitalized.

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