The derivation of The Catcher in the Rye from a series of unrelated short stories--as well as Salinger's affection for the form of the short story--helps explain the pacing and relative lack of narrative continuity in the novel. No setting or character other than Holden continues in the novel for more than two consecutive chapters (which also may be a characteristic feature of Holden’s specific story). Holden, as narrator, is the only continuous character in the entire story. Characters such as Sally Hayes and Mr. Antolini appear only in one chapter and then mostly disappear. The first chapters of the novel, which are all set at Pencey, are the only ones that sustain the same characters and setting for an extended period. Furthermore, since Salinger reiterates thematic elements throughout the novel (in practically every chapter Holden complains about phonies), many of the chapters essentially could be short stories in themselves.
Salinger uses two main techniques with great efficiency. The first is to emphasize a contrast between Holden’s relatively casual description of his actions and the apparent desperation of the actions themselves. When Holden describes walking to the Central Park duck pond late at night, for instance, he casually mentions that he had icicles in his hair and worried about catching pneumonia, but he does not seem to consider it strange to walk outdoors with wet hair in freezing weather. It does seem strange to the reader, however, and Salinger uses that sense of strangeness, as well as Holden’s apparent obliviousness to it, to emphasize his mental imbalance. His other technique is to provide alternative viewpoints in the other characters’ responses to Holden’s behavior as guidelines. For instance, when Holden has his meltdown with Sally and tries to persuade her to flee society and live with him in a cabin, she repeatedly asks him to stop shouting. In his account of the scene, Holden claims he wasn’t shouting, but we believe Sally. Salinger uses her angry, fearful response to signal to the reader that Holden’s mental state is worse than he admits or acknowledges.
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