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The Catcher in the Rye is full of imagery, or descriptive language that evokes sensory experience, especially in the Chapter 18 where Holden does a lot of talking about what it means to be “phony.” This is a great opportunity to speak of the five senses and how Salinger succeeds in a full sensory experience from the descriptive language in this particular chapter. First, Holden doesn’t seem too concerned with his recent episode with Sally as “I felt sort of hungry, so I went in this drugstore and had a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted” (135). No better way to show nonchalance than with some apt taste imagery. However, the main portion of literary imagery involves Holden’s description of the stage show at Radio City, the movie that follows, and Holden’s eventual revelation about war. The visual imagery of the Christmas Spectacular is amazing. “I came in when the goddam stage show was on. The Rockettes were kicking their heads off” (137). “Then after the Rockettes, a guy came out in a tuxedo and roller skates on, and started skating under a bunch of little tables, and telling jokes while he did it” (137). “And the whole bunch of them—thousands of them—singing ‘Come All Ye Faithful” like mad (137). Lots of sight, sound, and touch imagery. All of this Holden finds very “phony,” but succeeds in painting a very graphic picture through descriptive imagery, doesn’t he? Holden furthers his image with the very loaded word of “puke” which he uses as the ultimate descriptive image when something is “phony.” Puke: an image of all five senses. “I said old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it—all those fancy costumes and all” (138). In regards to the film, Salinger’s descriptive imagery focuses more on Holden’s view of the woman beside him. “The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the whole goddam picture” while neglecting her little boy who needed to go to the bathroom (139). Through descriptive imagery focusing on sight and sound, then, Holden discovers an important truth of human nature: people are more likely to be concerned with imaginary people’s imaginary problems than with real people’s real problems. Holden finally concludes, in utter disgust, that “I swear if there’s ever another war, they better just take me out and stick me in front of a firing squad. . . . If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of [the atomic bomb]” (141). The Catcher in the Rye full of imagery? I would say so.
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