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Narratological Analysis on the Narrator in the Catcher in the Rye

Author YangLiNa
Tutor MaBaoJin
School Henan University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Holden Salinger first-person point of view unreliable narrator
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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The thesis focuses on the narrative techniques of the The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger from the perspective of post-classical narratology, and explores how Salinger uses the first-person narration and internal focalization to create an unreliable narrator, Holden Caulfield, by means of whom Salinger attains his writing aims.In The Rhetoric of Fiction (1983), W. C. Booth states that the relationship among the author, the narrator, the character and the reader is rhetorical. To put it in another way, what Booth says about the rhetorical relationship among them may be explained that when the real author produces a narrative text he chooses a particular narrative technique to establish a special relationship among the character, the narrator and the reader, so as to achieve his expected literary effects. It is generally believed that there are different perspectives to tell the same story. From different perspective to narrate the story, the author can produce different reading effects since different perspective embraces different intention of the author.The Catcher in the Rye is narrated in the first-person point of view, and the narrator is focalized internally. With this narrative technique Salinger arranges Holden to converse personally to the reader, and allows the reader to have a face-to-face contact with Holden. This, of course, is not the final aim of Salinger to write the story. By use of the first-person point of view, Salinger vividly demonstrates Holden’s inner feelings and cuts short the distance between the reader and Holden to the nearest; and in the disguise of the unreliable narrator, the implied author in this novel relentlessly whips the absurd social phenomena at that time, and cries for reform of educational system and adults’ understanding to the adolescents.This thesis consists of five parts. The introduction includes the purpose of writing the thesis, the structure of the thesis as well as a brief survey of the study on the writing techniques of The Catcher in the Rye.Chapter One is a theoretical statement, in which the writer of the thesis has a comprehensive survey on the previous studies on some concepts of narratology. In this part, the writer pays more attention to the discussion of previous studies on narrator and narrative point of view by scholars both at home and abroad; and tries to make clear some theoretical concepts within narratology.Chapter Two discusses the point of view of The Catcher in the Rye and its literary effect. The thesis holds that the novel is narrated in the first-person point of view and the narrator is focalized internally. By means of first-person retrospective narration, and first-person internal focalization, the author of the novel discloses the complex state of mind of Holden: his agony, despair, psycho-pressure, mental confusion and struggle to be good. By means of this narrative technique, Salinger allows his reader to reconsider from the standpoint of Holden the agonies and indignations that Holden suffers so that the readers themselves will find excuses for Holden’s so-called bad behaviors, and have a rational understanding of Holden. Thus a true Holden is disclosed by this narrative technique.Chapter Three talks about the unreliable narrator and its literary effect. This chapter tries to analyze Salinger’s choice of the unreliable narrator as a rhetorical device to reach his literary effect he wants to achieve. In the words of an unreliable narrator, Salinger guides his reader to see the phony life in America after the War from the vantage of an adolescent. By the mouth of the sensitive, cynical and sharp-eyed unreliable narrator, the implied author of this novel speaks out the strong revolts of the teenagers against the irrational educational system, the absurd and hypothetical adult life, and the incomprehension and pressure on the adolescents from the adult, and meanwhile calls on the society to be concerned with the young.The conclusion is the concluding remarks of the thesis, which summarizes what has been discussed in previous chapters. The writer of the thesis hopes to make further study on this topic.

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