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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Can Holden's age be determined by his speech in The Catcher in the Rye? Was he illiterate?

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In The Catcher in the Rye, we can tell Holden Caufield's relative age by his speech pattern.  He is persistently negative and uses a lot of slang of the day (the 1950's)- traits that have been consistently  used by 14-22 year olds.  There is not a lot in the speech to determine his precise age.

Furthermore, there is nothing to point to Holden Caufield being illiterate.  His behavior is what has gotten him kicked out of several schools.  He uses phrases-particularly the phrase, "Or something"- to cut his speech from his thought pattern.  This mostly just shows an unwillingness or laziness to go into greater detail.  Even today, we hear a lot of younger folks say "whatever" instead of taking the time to explain what they really mean.

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