From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

  

by J. D. Salinger

Analysis: Writing Style

Colloquial, Slangy

If an adult has every gotten on your case about uptalk, vocal fry, or saying “like” all the time, you get the point of Catcher in the Rye—you and Holden might say different things in different ways, but you both speak the same language: teenager. Holden’s style (which is the book’s style) is colloquial and slangy, sounding a lot more like a real seventeen-year-old talking straight to you than an accomplished adult author.

Some examples? He says things like "You'd have liked [Allie]" to give the illusion that he’s right there talking at you. He uses italics to make the words read with the same emphasis as spoken word ("He's my brother and all"). You'll hear him describe places and people all the time as "corny" or "phony." He'll tell us he's never waited anywhere so long in his "goddamn life. [He] swear[s]" (24. 97), or that he's sweating "like a bastard" (24.100).

The Catcher in the Rye, like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before it, is one of few books to feature this language in the narration itself, not just in dialogue. At the time, this was both unusual and important—not just as a new literary style, but also as a way to study the vernacular of a particular time period. So, while the language doesn't seem all that offensive to us (PG, maybe), it raised a few more eyebrows in 1951.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement