What is the point of view of The Catcher in the Rye?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The point-of-view in The Catcher in the Rye is past-tense, first-person singular. The entire book is presented by Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, and everything that happens is told from his perspective. In this manner, the reader sees his outlook on life and his innate anger at everything he perceives as "phony."

In the beginning of the novel, Holden speaks with a teacher who flunked him in history:

"You glanced through it, eh?" he said--very sarcastic. "Your, ah, exam paper is over there on top of my chiffonier. On top of the pile. Bring it here, please."

It was a very dirty trick, but I went over and brought it over to him -- I didn't have any alternative or anything. Then I sat down on his cement bed again. Boy, you can't imagine how sorry I was getting that I'd stopped by to say good-by to him.

He started handling my exam paper like it was a turd or something.
(Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, sleeplessinmumbai.files.wordpress.com)

Although Holden has no illusions about the reasons for his flunking, he also is scornful of the teacher and his methods for bringing the issue up. He believes that he has flunked, that he knows it, and therefore there is nothing more to say; the teacher, meanwhile, is frustrated with Holden's uncaring nature towards learning and passing classes. Between them, they cannot connect on anything of substance, as Holden simply believes that the teacher is tormenting him for no reason, and the teacher can't understand why Holden cares so little about education that he describes Egyptians as "an ancient race of Caucasians."

Holden's view of the world is very subjective, and it is easy to read his narration as a deliberate warping of reality, since he cannot get past his own anger and superiority complex. 

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Catcher in the Rye is told from the first-person singular point of view, specifically from Holden Caulfield's perspective. First-person narration is when a story is told from the perspective of one character at a time. The narrator shares the events happening throughout the story from their own perspective, using the pronouns "I" or "we." Holden Caulfield is also considered an unreliable narrator, which is a narrator whose perception and account of events cannot be trusted or taken at face value. Holden directly tells the reader,

"I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful. If I'm on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I'm going, I'm liable to say I'm going to the opera" (Salinger, 9).

Holden portrays himself as a struggling, jaded teenager who has a negative perception of the world around him. He continually exaggerates, applies stereotypes, and contradicts himself throughout the entire novel. Holden views anything associated with the adult world as being "phony" and despises mainstream America. Salinger's use of first-person narration gives the reader a unique look at a disgruntled adolescent's outlook on life.

kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The point of view in J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye is first-person singular. Salinger’s classic depiction of youthful alienation in the person of Holden Caulfield is told from this 16-year-old preparatory school drop-out’s perspective, and his perspective is decidedly negative with few exceptions, his aging teacher Mr. Spencer, female friend Jane Gallagher and, most importantly, his younger sister Phoebe. About most of the rest of his universe, Holden has little good to say. His roommate at Pencey Prep, Stradlater, is everything he is not: confident, handsome, athletic, and sexually experienced.

The Catcher in the Rye is told from the single major character's viewpoint. This is Holden’s story, and he tells it with a level of cynicism at once appropriate and unfortunate for a 16-year-old boy on the cusp of adulthood.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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