In the opening paragraph J. D Salinger presents Holden as having a blunt and aggressive tone which he uses when addressing other characters. As the audience we are shocked at his sheer bluntness but are soon to be aware of the fact that it is all just a front. Holden immediately dives in by telling the reader that he doesn’t ‘feel like going into’ his ‘lousy childhood’ background; however, he is soon indulging the audience with knowledge about his parents.
The speed in which it takes him to realise his contradiction could simply be a sign that he’s kept his front up too long and it’s altogether weakening him as a person. Holden then sheds some light on his brother’s career as a successful writer. Holden tells the audience that his brothers ‘got a lot of dough, now’ but how he ‘didn’t use to’. The word ‘use’ in italic font suggests that Holden is still getting over the fact his brother is no longer ‘a regular writer’, he now in Holdens’ mind has a kind of superiority over him, making Holden feel worthless.
Holden has displayed a variety of child like traits in his manner of speech and to add to that he then refers his brother as ‘being a prostitute’; to Holden this demeaning word could possibly lower his brothers status to something lower, making them seem as equals and therefore making himself feel better about his lack of success. Holden at this point in the book seems to have no emotional connection to anyone, and this could be partly because his parents and brother were successful in what they do, leaving Holden to feel slightly inferior to them.
As the novel progresses Holden drops hints about his time at Pency Prep. Pency Prep’s motto ‘since 1888’ was claiming they ‘have been moulding boys into splendid clear -thinking young men. ’ Again Holden shows traits of being somewhat jealous of the fact that he was never ‘moulded’ or simply allowed himself to be ‘moulded’. In retaliation to this he uses sarcasm to emphasis the fact that the school doesn’t ‘do any damn more moulding at Pency then they do at any other school and all the boys probably come to Pency that way’.
As previously in the book, Holden is again labelling people who are of a “higher status” than him, as the reader I think this shows how he has issues with accepting people who are different and he maybe can’t quite understand them, hence his reasoning for using simple idiotic words such as ‘stupid’ and ‘crap’. We are introduced to Selma Thurmer, and as the audience we are aware of his erratic behaviour and are simply shocked at the fact he actually ‘liked’ someone. However, we are soon aware at the fact that he is drawn to her because she is not perfect- nor does she attempt to be.
Selma is described as having ‘a big nose and her nails’ are ‘all bitten down’, but Holden could simply be seizing a chance to pity her as others may have done to him , highlighting his brothers success and his failure at Pency Prep. Now in theory, it was Holdens chance to be better than someone else, and his chance to be superior. As the month changes to December in the book, Holden refers to the weather being as ‘cold as a witches teat. ’ This simile is affective in a non-typical way. The choice of words are strong as they grasp at the sheer harshness of the coldness, yet they have a childish manner to them.
This also refers to Holdens speech. Holden is soon to inform us that he has ‘no gloves or anything’. He is possibly self-loathing and trying to draw sympathy out of the audience; something which he may be deprived of. Towards the end of the extract Holden introduced us to the Spencers, as soon as they’re mentioned he starts to write more about his feeling and less about what physical objects are there. The Spencers house seems familiar to him, suggesting that he’s been there more than once before.
When asking whether Mr Spencer has got over the ‘grippe’ he seems genuinely concerned, highlighting to the audience that his old ‘history teacher’ is one of the only people he has a emotional connection with. In conclusion I believe that Holden uses his anger and child-like words as a barrier. He is scared that someone may try to dig deep into his emotional layers and he uses the barrier to stop himself from getting hurt in the future and the present. However, his lack of empathy also suggests that there may be something psychologically wrong with him.