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Catcher in the Rye

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“Feeling a goodbye”

CATCHR-GYEKOQ

Consider the following excerpt from Chapter 1 and pay attention to the information Salinger chooses to have Holden reveal about himself in the book's first pages.

I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don't care if it's a sad good-bye or a bad goodbye, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse.

Why did Salinger decide to have his narrator state his feelings about goodbyes at this early point -- before, in fact, we even know Holden's name?

A

Salinger has Holden voice his feelings about departures to convey the emotional weight that Holden bears in his situation; Salinger wants the reader to understand that leaving Pencey is an upsetting event for Holden.

B

Mentioning how Holden feels about goodbyes in the very first pages of the text functions builds a foundation for Holden's character development and foreshadows an eventual future goodbye. Holden experiences difficulty with saying goodbye not only to Pencey, the reader learns, but to Allie and his own childhood too.

C

Holden's statement about goodbyes serves as a counterpoint to the aloof and “cool” facade he continuously maintains throughout the first chapter of Catcher in the Rye. Including these lines is a way for Salinger to show that Holden is not completely void of feeling and numb to emotion.

D

It is a conscious choice on Salinger's part for Holden to articulate the way he feels about goodbyes in the first pages of the novel while he is watching the Pencey football game from afar. Salinger, in doing this, sets up a symmetry; the scene of Holden wanting to feel a goodbye mirrors one of the final scenes in Catcher in the Rye, that of Holden watching from afar as Phoebe rides the carousel and he struggles to accept the inevitability of Phoebe growing up.

E

Salinger wishes to demonstrate that Holden is an exceptionally sensitive, if occasionally mawkish, narrator.