First read the third chapter of Introduction to English Literary Studies (“The Novel”). Then go to p. 102 and answer the questions on The Catcher in the Rye under the heading “Time to Write”. Task
Write a list of things that Holden says in the first paragraph of the novel and on pages 5-6 that strike you as interesting or as holding some clue to what is to come in his tale.
Write a page explaining what is achieved by the “Flashback” technique of looking back on events that have already happened.
In the first paragraph of the novel The Catcher in the Rye, we are introduced to the narrator or writer, Holden. We do not know his name at this point however we are introduced to his character. In this paragraph the reader can assume that a story is going to be told and that it is not going to be a typical autobiography of the character. It appears that Holden is in denial and slightly reluctant to share his story. This gives us as the readers the idea that throughout his tale there will be parts he is ashamed of. Holden mentions his brother in the first paragraph and speaks highly of him ,however, in the same breath refers to him as a “prostitute”. This is where we first see how Holden uses contradiction and is to be expected throughout the novel. The contradiction is also seen when he firstly says he will not be sharing is personal story and then begins to tell it regardless. In a whole the first paragraph paints us a picture of the main character .
There are other interesting things noticed in the first paragraph and on pages 5-6. Here we notice the unusual choice of language and exaggeration used. This shows the reader what age or maturity level that Holden is. In conjunction with use of language it is seen that Holden jumps from one idea to another randomly without structure and at times does not make sense. This is known as non sequiturs. At first this causes the reader to be confused and is slightly difficult to read. Nevertheless it continues throughout the novel and therefore becomes easier to read and understand the use of non sequiturs. The language style in the novel is colloquial, humorous and intimate. Holden’s language takes you in and keeps drawing you in to his experience as he addresses the reader as ‘you’ this can be seen as intimacy in his language.
Pages 5-6 gives the reader an idea that there is an inner conflict. We see this when Holden is being expelled from school and goes to say good bye to his one teacher. He does this moments after exclaiming all the negativity about school, education and it’s “phoney” teachers. The reader can begin to assume that the main character feels all this negativity and exaggerates how he does not care but in true reality all he wants is to care, be accepted and to be cared for. In addition these pages begin to show the reader that a flashback technique is used and his tale begins to take form.
The flashback technique is often used in movies where one of the characters will be remembering something or telling a story of a past event. Likewise the use of the technique is used in novels as well. We can see this technique is used in The Catcher in the Rye because Holden is telling the reader a story of an events that has already occurred. The flashback technique is a very powerful and successful one as it allows us to know what has happened and we see how Holden feels about the events when they occurred compared to after they have happened. It also allows the reader to critically read the story and analyse the character, his use of language, and the story itself. Often flashback techniques are used to also show the reader if the character has changed at all from before the event until the present where he or she is telling the story. In other words, relating to The Catcher in the Rye, it allows the reader to decide whether the character has grown or remained the same since the events. In this case we see the character has developed in way that he understands more about the world and adults than he did before.
It is known that a flashback technique means that the author starts at the end of the story and then looks back as to how the character got to that end point. In this novel Holden informs us as the readers that he is at some place not to his liking. We can assume that it is a home or hostel establishment of some sort. He gives us the setting and what his current situation is. The flashback technique begins here. This is where the story is told of how the character got to where he is. It gives us all the information we need to understand his situation. This is a successful technique in a novel as it keeps the reader intrigued as they want to know how, why and when. It also allows the reader to try and guess what is to come before they are told. This can assist in making reading more enjoyable. In result this encourages the reader to finish the novel.
Therefore it can be said that the author of The Catcher in the Rye achieves a great amount by using the flashback technique. It has made the story more enjoyable to read, easier to understand, kept the reader intrigued and allowed for a more intellectual side to reading. Intellectually it makes us think critically about the novel naturally. Thus the flashback technique is a wise choice in this type of writing and is used successfully in The Catcher in the Rye.