The passage of adolescence has served as the central theme for many novels, but J. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, long a staple in academic lesson plans, has captured the spirit of this stage of life in hyper-sensitive form, dramatizing Holden Caulfield's vulgar language and melodramatic reactions. Written as the autobiographical account of a fictional teenage prep school student Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye deals with material that is socially scandalous for the times (Gwynn, 1958). As an emotional, intelligent, inquisitive, and painfully sensitive young man, Holden puts his inner world to the test through the sexual mores of his peers and elders, the teachings of his education, and his own emerging sense of self. Throughout the years, the language of the story has startled some readers. Salinger's control of Holden's easy, conversational manner makes the introduction of these larger themes appear natural and believable. (Bloom, 1990).
At the time of the novel through today, Holden's speech rings true to the colloquial speech of teenagers. Holden, according to many reviews in the Chicago Tribune, the New Yorker, and the New York Times, accurately captures the informal speech of an average intelligent, educated, northeastern American adolescent (Costello, 1990). Such speech includes both simple description and cursing. For example, Holden says, "They're nice and all", as well as "I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything." In the first instance, he uses the term "nice" which oversimplifies his parents' character, implying he does not wish to disrespect them, yet at the same time he does not praise them. At best he deems them as "nice and all." Holden further cuts short his description, but in a more curt manner, when he states he will not tell his "whole goddam autobiography or anything." From the start the reader picks up Holden's hostility and unwillingness to share his views stric!.