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What is the point of view of The Catcher in the Rye?

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chrischris1 | eNoter

Posted April 22, 2012 at 5:48 PM via web

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What is the point of view of The Catcher in the Rye?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 22, 2012 at 6:35 PM (Answer #1)

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The point-of-view in The Catcher in the Rye is past-tense, first-person singular. The entire book is presented by Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, and everything that happens is told from his perspective. In this manner, the reader sees his outlook on life and his innate anger at everything he perceives as "phony."

In the beginning of the novel, Holden speaks with a teacher who flunked him in history:

"You glanced through it, eh?" he said--very sarcastic. "Your, ah, exam paper is over there on top of my chiffonier. On top of the pile. Bring it here, please."

It was a very dirty trick, but I went over and brought it over to him -- I didn't have any alternative or anything. Then I sat down on his cement bed again. Boy, you can't imagine how sorry I was getting that I'd stopped by to say good-by to him.

He started handling my exam paper like it was a turd or something.
(Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, sleeplessinmumbai.files.wordpress.com)

Although Holden has no illusions about the reasons for his flunking, he also is scornful of the teacher and his methods for bringing the issue up. He believes that he has flunked, that he knows it, and therefore there is nothing more to say; the teacher, meanwhile, is frustrated with Holden's uncaring nature towards learning and passing classes. Between them, they cannot connect on anything of substance, as Holden simply believes that the teacher is tormenting him for no reason, and the teacher can't understand why Holden cares so little about education that he describes Egyptians as "an ancient race of Caucasians."

Holden's view of the world is very subjective, and it is easy to read his narration as a deliberate warping of reality, since he cannot get past his own anger and superiority complex. 

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