In The Catcher in the Rye, how does Salinger tend to end chapters, and how do these endings work together to set the tone of the novel?
In this novel, the chapters tend to end with a general reflection on some aspect of life by the narrator, Holden. For instance, chapter 12 concludes with the glum observation:
People are always ruining things for you.
Chapter 15 ends with a similarly sweeping and downbeat remark about money:
Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.
In both these quotes it can be seen that Holden uses the second person form of narration. Holden in this way directly addresses the reader and indeed seems to assume that the reader shares all his generally negative experiences and ideas about life.
These chapter endings help to set the reflective, conversational, and indeed confessional tone of the book. Holden openly invites the reader to share all his thoughts, feelings, doubts and perplexities throughout. At the very end of the novel he is still doing this as he admonishes his audience to never ‘tell anybody anything. If you do, you end up missing everybody’ (chapter 26).
Holden has told us everything, and yet warns us off from doing the same. He leaves us with a lasting impression of a character rich in contradictions, alienated from other people and yet always reaching out to them in one form or another – and nowhere more so than in the intimate sense of connection which he attempts to forge with his readers.
Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger ends the chapters with a witty retort or wrap-up of sorts. Here are a few examples:
- Chapter 8: After chatting up Ernest Morrow's mother on the train after he leaves Pencey Prep and lies and explains how everyone loves "old Ernie," Holden says to himself, "I wouldn't visit that sonuvabitch Morrow for all the dough in the world, even if I was desperate."
- Chapter 9: After calling up the call girl Faith Cavendish and being incapable of planning a "date," Holden says, "Boy, I really fouled that up. I should've at least made it for cocktails or something."
- Chapter 19: After meeting with Carl Luce at the Wicker Bar, Holden sarcastically says, "[Luce] was strictly a pain in the ass, but he certainly had a good vocabulary. He had the largest vocabulary of any boy at Whooton when I was there. They gave us a test."
These retorts show how Holden is constantly reflecting on (or overthinking) the situations in which he finds himself. These reflections show Holden is more than just an average teenager going through life by just reacting to specific situations. It's generally this characteristic that helps the audience become more sympathetic toward Holden.