In The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger uses modern American teenage slang, a conversational and confessional tone, and verbal irony (mainly sarcasm).
Examine the following opening sentences:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
- Confessional: "If you really want to hear about it..."
- Conversational tone: "the first thing you'll probably want to know..."; "I don't feel like going into it"
- Sarcasm: "David Copperfield kind of crap"
Notice the conditional opening, using "If you want to know the truth..." Holden often lies to phonies as a means of exposing their phoniness, even though it exposes his own. As such, Holden becomes a satirist (one who uses irony to expose the illegitimacies of others) and an unreliable narrator. He functions as a rogue, naive narrator who both loves and hates his society, who confesses his greatest fears to us intimately, and who--by the end--regrets having confessed at all.