The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Explain and give an example of diction in The Catcher in the Rye.

Expert Answers info

mstultz72 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write1,817 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

In The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger, through Holden Caufield, uses the following elements of diction:

  • Tone: Holden’s voice is implicitly male voice
  • American voice
  • Folksy voice
  • Youthful, teenage voice with adult voice behind it
  • verbal irony (sarcasm, overstatement, understatement): "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."
  • conversational style:
  • simple, direct language: "All morons hate it when you call them a moron."
  • colloquial (slang): calls homosexuals "flits"
  • lots of repetition: "phonies"
  • cussing: "Goddam money.  It always ends up making you blue as hell."
  • many digressions: "It's no fun to be yellow.  Maybe I'm not all yellow.  I don't know.  I think maybe I'm just partly yellow and partly the type that doesn't give much of a damn if they lose their gloves."
  • Narration: Holden is unreliable narrator
  • conditional opening: “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
  • non-autobioghical
  • anti-Freudian (don’t psycho-analyze Holden’s lousy childhood)
  • episodic plot (like The Odyssey, Huck Finn)
  • Anti-European: “…and all that David Copperfield kind of crap” (Dickens); most European characters define themselves in context of family; Holden is saying that he doesn’t define himself with others or the past (birth of the American rebel)
  • Use of Language
  • Anaphora: (repetition at beginning of sentence) : “It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomch.”
  • Metaphor: “Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them”
  • Alliteration: “crazy cannon”; “we can smoke till they start screaming at us”
  • Irony: It’s really ironical, because I’m six foot two and a half and I have gray hair.”
  • Hyperbole: “The one side of my head—the right side—is full of millions of gray hairs.”
  • Dramatic Irony: (dominant figure of speech in the novel)—although Holden acknowledges that he has faults and weaknesses, he fails to realize how immature and maladjusted he really it