What is the significance of the relatively disjointed plot of The Catcher in the Rye?

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The overall picture created by The Catcher in the Rye is like a big mural, or montage, or collage, with many unrelated scenes juxtaposed. Salinger deliberately created a confused adolescent hero who is lost—or who has lost something and is trying to find it without knowing what it is. Such a confused hero is bound to create a disjointed story. One of the main scenes in this impressionistic mural or montage is a boy standing in a field of rye wheat and watching children at play in the distant background.

Salinger creates his patchwork effect by using a viewpoint protagonist who has motivation but lacks a goal. Holden's little sister, Phoebe, admonishes him for not having any sense of direction—but Holden is like a forerunner of many adolescent boys today, sailing the seas without a compass; going out with girls he despises; going here, there, and everywhere without any plan or purpose; and wasting his one life as if he had a dozen lives to squander.

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