How does the author use diction to reveal the theme of hatred of "phonies"?

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

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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.

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