Free Study Guide for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger|
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
This first Chapter clearly establishes the youth of Holden Caulfield. He is a young man who has just been kicked out of another prep school. As the narrator, he speaks a typical teenage language, filled with exaggeration, slang, and curse words. This authentic language helps to establish Holdenís personality and voice. It also helps to establish him as a credible narrator, for the story is about a troubled teenager.
Holden also has many individualized characteristics in his speech. He constantly substitutes nouns for adjectives, as in the phrase, "David Copperfield kind of crap". He is often unable to find precise words for many of his thoughts, so he awkwardly stops in mid-thought and hesitates. These tendencies, coupled with the fact that Holden ends many of his sentences with phrases like "and all," indicate that the speaker is confused and self-conscious. In fact, his narration becomes almost a stream-of-consciousness narrative, where things happen inside the narratorís head and then appear to be quickly written down.
In this Chapter, Holden makes it clear that he is not in the hospital because of poor physical health, but because of a nervous breakdown. This information is important, for it helps to establish the mood and point of view of the narrator. The fact that Holden is in a psychiatric hospital certainly influences the way the story is told, read, and understood. In other words, the setting in this first Chapter, which serves as the front-end of a frame narrative, is extremely important.
It is important to notice that when Holden flashes back to the day he left Pencey Prep, he is pictured alone, standing on top of a hill. He has risen above the pettiness of Pencey and looks down on it, both literally and figuratively. He wants to leave town with a positive thought about the school, even though he has been expelled. He thinks hard to come up with a pleasant memory and recalls an evening football game with friends. He is satisfied that this recollection is positive enough. As a result, he can proceed on this wait to call on his history teacher.
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. 09 May 2017