The Catcher in the Rye Analysis

  • Holden Caulfield is the unreliable narrator of The Catcher in the Rye. Holden blithely declares, "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life." His narrative voice is characterized by his bitter, critical, and self-conscious point of view.
  • Holden narrates the novel in stream of consciousness, allowing his thoughts to flow freely with little regard to structure or narrative conventions. This technique allows Salinger to explore Holden's psychology in depth and further develop his character.
  • Holden's red hunting hat is a symbol of comfort. He wears it whenever he feels anxious, making it a kind of security blanket for those moments when he feels isolated or insecure. His decision to give the hat to Phoebe may indicate that he has gotten over his social anxiety.


In essence, we have three narrators of the events that take place in this book. The first is the author J. D. Salinger who was looking back in anger (or in creativity) from his thirty-two-year-old vantage point. The second is the seventeen-year-old Holden, still institutionalized, who tells the story as a recollection. And the third, and most immediate, is the sixteen-year-old Holden who does all the talking. The form of the narration is first person, in which a character uses "I" to relate events from his or her perspective.

Stream of Consciousness
The technique of the narration is a form known as "stream of consciousness." While the book proceeds in a rough chronological order, the events are related to the reader as Holden thinks of them. Wherever his mind wanders, the reader follows. Notice how his language often appears to be more like that of a ten-year-old than that of a smart sixteen-year-old. This is a continuing demonstration of Holden's unwillingness to grow up and join the hypocritical adult world that he despises. Holden's conversation in the Wicker Bar with Luce demonstrates this reluctance aptly, when Luce expresses annoyance at Holden's immaturity.

The settings for The Catcher in the Rye—Pencey Prep and New York City—were the settings for J. D. Salinger's early life as well, although the novel is...

(The entire section is 560 words.)