Discuss the narrative technique of The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger and first released in 1951, has always been admired and enjoyed by people all over the world. The Catcher in the Rye was the novel that made Salinger famous. The novel has earned a position in the pantheon of great works of literature. Salinger produced a one-of-a-kind literary work. It is part of a long and illustrious storytelling tradition, maybe the most illustrious in Western fiction. Despite the fact that Salinger’s first and only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, is only regarded as a minor classic of American literature, it is a widely successful book that elicits intense feelings from its readers, both favourable and negative.

The Catcher In The Rye
The Catcher In The Rye

Salinger worked for ten years to complete The Catcher in the Rye. However, the novel was not a hit right away. It struggled for two years to get traction at the top before finally succeeding. It has sparked a lot of discussion among critics since then. The Catcher in the Rye is regarded as the “greatest” work of the current generation of writers, according to Warren French. The work may be understood as Holden Caulfield’s desire for transmissibility with his countrymen, according to Charles H. Kegel, and the character’s first person narrative shows that he has succeeded in his goal. The narrative structure and style of The Catcher in the Rye have been investigated by Edgar Branch. The work is set in the epic quest style, according to Arthur Heiserman and James E. Miller, Jr. Even the novel’s non-grammatical, colloquial, and obscene language piques critics’ curiosity. The novel’s language, according to Donald P. Costello, is laced with deep personal eccentricities.

The story’s parts are contoured in a narrative conversation by the presenter’s textual expressions. The narrative text can be narrated exclusively by the first person. A seventeen-year-old kid, Holden Caulfield, is the narrator of “The Catcher in the Rye”. Holden is the one who tells us about all of the happenings in the storey; we learn about other people and events via him. Although Holden is the narrator, however, focalization may shift to other characters. The focalizer sees the tale while the storyteller offers the narration. Sometimes, like in the opening of the storey, our expectations are not realised. If people really do want to know about it, the very first thing they’ll likely want to learn is where he was born, and how bad his upbringing was, and how busy his parents were when they had him, and all of that David Copperfield stuff, but he don’t plan on going into it right then.  The reader expects Holden to talk about his upbringing and parents at this point, but the reader’s assumptions are not met as Holden refuses to discuss those things. Because we know there’s now a distinction between the narrator and the focalizer, the narrator and focalizer can, but do not have to, be the same individual. Holden Caulfield is the narrator of the storey, and the focalization shifts between several individuals, with Holden Caulfield serving as the primary focalizer. External focalization and the internal focalization are two different types of focalization. The first sort of focalization has not been used by Salinger. Character focalization is the most common type of internal focalization. “There were seldom much females at football games,” for instance. Seniors were the only ones who were permitted to bring their female companions. Regardless of how you looked at it, it was a bad school. He prefered to be in a place where he could at least see some girls time to time. The sensory, psychological, and ideological components of focalization may all be separated into several categories. Because Holden is a personality within the novel’s portrayed universe, his focalization is primarily restricted to the ‘past’ of the plot. The cognitive and emotional components determine the psychological aspect. When Holden discusses his relationships with , Allie, Jane Gallagher, Phoebe and his parents, he uses cognitive, emotional, and ideological focalization. He is an impressionable adolescent. He recalls his brother Allie, who was two years his junior. He died as a result of leukaemia and  Holden loved him very much. He also pines for his younger sister Phoebe, who stays with his parents while Holden has spent the majority of his childhood in boarding schools. He grew up with absent parents for the majority of his childhood. He’d never met somebody he could talk to or get to know. He was constantly transferring schools due to bad grades. Allie, Phoebe, and Jane Gallagher were the only individuals he had been capable of speaking with. Furthermore, the focalization process is intimately tied to ideology, which, like focalization, is not consistent. Every individual has a distinct philosophy than the other. Although there is no explicit mention of ideology in The Catcher in the Rye, however ideology may be deduced from Holden’s actions, behaviour, and viewpoints.

Because Holden is the novel’s protagonist, the novel’s prevailing ideological stance may be extrapolated. Holden feels both alienated and superior to others throughout the storey. He understands that his ideals are not the same as those of his society. Almost everyone he encounters is labelled as a ‘fake.’ He perceives himself to be encircled by hypocrites. Holden has an obsession with childhood that manifests itself in a variety of ways. His adoration for children, excessive respect for Phoebe, idealisation of his deceased brother, and the pleasure he derives from remembering of his own childhood altogether add to his preoccupation with purity and youth. Holden wants to stop all youngsters from growing up and losing their purity throughout the novel. He doesn’t want to grow up; he pines for the innocence of youth, when the self is blissfully unconscious of uncertainties. Holden despises the materialistic mindset of others around him. He even calls his father a “fake” since he, too, goes to court to defend issues for strictly financial reasons.

Stradlater, Mr.Antolini, Pencey’s Headmaster, and many others are among the ideological viewpoints that emerge. Stradlater, who also happens to be Holden’s roommate, values in following the rules, yet he had no qualms about requesting Holden to write his English paper for him. For himself, he has no qualms about breaching the rules. Holden’s instructor, Mr. Antolini, gives him counsel and comfort. When he is unable to stay at his parents’ flat, he visits Antolini. Antolini does provide him with some well-intentioned fatherly counsel. However, his motivations remain uncertain. Holden isn’t sure if Antolini made a move at him or just rubbed his head while he slept in his flat. Holden is perplexed by Antolini’s gesture. It’s odd that the person who provided Holden guidance had double standards himself. Pencey’s Headmaster, too, has double standards when it comes to school administration. On Saturday nights, the boys are fed steak so that on Sundays, they may tell their coming parents how they had steak the night earlier. Another idea is to promote the school by showing a model on a horse leaping over a fence if there is no horse anywhere close to the school campus. Salinger has represented the standards of educationists through Antolini and Pencey’s headmaster.

Conclusion: To summarise, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is an excellent example of the narratological compositional method. Meaning is transferred by the narrating agent through the medium of distinct focalizers by separating the text into kernel and satellite episodes. Because of his masterful use of narrative style, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is now considered a masterpiece of twentieth-century American literature.


Also Read:

Biography of J.D Salinger

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