Characterisation, to a great extent assists in shaping both the plot of and protagonist in a novel and in establishing a desired atmosphere while reading it. J.D Salinger uniquely plays with the use of characterisation coupled with stand-out language features in his novel The Catcher in the Rye, greatly influencing one’s personal response to it. The novel exhibits Salinger’s ability to weld each character into an instrument, providing an insight into Holden’s depressing and pessimistic world, of the life of a mentally unstable teenager, of failure of resolution and self-deception, and of compassion.
Salinger uniquely creates a low and miserable atmosphere. A negative approach to life is greatly emphasized upon through the distinct voice of the protagonist who is both judgemental in thought and expression. Moreover, it is emboldened by taboo words like “goddam” and “sonuvabitch”, and a range of characters whose sole purpose in the novel is to highlight his depressing persona. It is demonstrated for example, in Holden’s acquaintance with Ackley.
”Then I went over and lay down on goddam Ely’s bed. I felt so damn lonesome” (Holden).”What’re ya gonna do, sleep on Ely’s bed?”(Ackley)
Arguably, Holden’s most powerful cause of depression is his feelings of alienation which remain a driving force throughout the book. Despite judging Ackley in a grotesque manner, he still reaches out to him whenever he feels lonely. His depression highlights his desperation to relieve his alienation. Through the characterisation of Sunny, the composer creates an all the more dismal feeling as he shows Sunny choosing to be a prostitute working for an over aggressive manager, Maurice, at an age too full of innocence. Maurice’s demanding nature highlights Holden’s cowardice to fight back.
“I took her dress over to the closet...It made me feel sort of sad”.
Furthermore, noting Salinger’s use of hesitancy as a language feature brings the whole discouraging atmosphere to a perfect note....