Style of writing
The language in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger reflects Holden’s sociolect. He is a rebellious teenager, and his language is often colloquial and filled with curse words, like in the following example:
‘Jane Gallagher,’ I said. I even got up from the washbowl when he said that. I damn near dropped dead. ‘You're damn right I know her. She practically lived right next door to me, the summer before last. She had this big damn Doberman pinscher. That's how I met her. Her dog used to keep coming over in our - ’ (p. 32)
Holden often uses slang words like “damn”, “lousy”, “goddamn”, “crumby”, and “hell”, which mainly reflect his frustration with the people around him. Then, expressions like “necking”, “chew the fat”, and “shoot the bull” reflect a typical teenage way of speaking. On the same note, non-standard language like “wuddaya” (p. 158) instead of “what do you”, “helluva” (p. 83) instead of “hell of a”, and “wuddayacallit” (p. 158) instead of “what do you call it” reflect Holden’s youth and lack of interest when it comes to speaking in a proper, standard manner.
Holden often uses exaggerations, which highlight his emotional immaturity. For example, at the beginning of the novel, he claims that his parents “would have about two hemorrhages apiece” (p. 1) if he told anything too personal about them. Often throughout the novel, Holden says things like “It killed me” (p. 2) or “at Pencey, you either froze to death or died of the heat” (p. 24). These exaggerations highlight Holden’s immaturity but also his tendency to lie to impress.
Throughout the novel, Holden’s language reveals that he has plenty of verbal tics. One of the most frequent ones is the use of the word “old”, which is a term of endearment. For example, he talks about “old Phoebe”, “old Pencey”, “old Spencer” and the “old hunting hat” in a way that expresses his attachment to them. Then, Holden often repeats the expression “and all”, which is rather vague and reflects his desire to let readers think about t...