Plot Structure and Literary Devices in "The Catcher in The Rye"

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1516 |

Pages: 2|

8 min read

Published: May 19, 2020

Words: 1516|Pages: 2|8 min read

Published: May 19, 2020

Table of contents

  1. General Overview
  2. Point Of View
  3. Plot Structure
  4. The Major Conflict
    The Climax
    Falling Action
  5. Motifs
  6. Tone
  7. Literary Devices
  8. Symbolism
  9. Conclusion

General Overview

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel written by J. D. Salinger. It was published in 1951. From a historical perspective, there was a lot going on in the United States in the 1950s. The economy of the nation was relatively stable and life had improved for some sections of the society. The culturally conservative United States had also started leaning increasingly towards the liberal side. The setting of the novel and characters reflect this state of Salinger’s America.

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The novel is centered around a 17 year old, Holden Caulfield who recounts two days in his life after he gets expelled from Pencey Prep school. He leaves school two days early to explore New York before returning home. He interacts with his teachers, prostitutes, nuns, an old girlfriend and his little sister along the way. He is left confused and disillusioned by the adult world and criticises everyone’s “phoniness”. He is in search of truth but ends up exhausted and emotionally unstable.

Salinger once admitted in an interview that this novel was partly autobiographical. Like Holden, he grew up in upper class New York and flunked out of prep schools. His experiences while growing up and during his service in the United States army at the time of World War II, largely shaped Holden's opinions, mistrust and cynical view of the adult society in the novel.

Through Holden’s character he expressed his views of growing up as a slow surrender to the 'phony' responsibilities of adult life, such as getting a job and maintaining intimate relationships. Thus, it is no surprise that he presented The Catcher in the Rye as a coming-of-age story with the loss of innocence as one of its primary concerns. The narrative style of the novel allowed him to develop a rich study of Holden’s character and offer revealing insight into his grief, social seclusion and conflict against society - which form other themes of the novel.

Point Of View

The catcher in the Rye is narrated in first person by untrustworthy narrator named Holden Caulfield. He shamelessly warns the readers that he is out of his mind, “I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her. I’m crazy. I didn’t even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her. I swear to God I’m crazy. I admit it. ” (p. 124). Throughout the whole story, his opinions and judgments end up in reader’s dispute the preciseness of them due to the fact the Holden is not able to understand himself.

Plot Structure

The Major Conflict

The major conflict is in Holden’s brain. One of his sides would like to connect with adults on an adult environment or level more special when he tries to have sex with a woman. On the other hand; the other side wants to decline does not want to grow up, he would like to be a teenager forever. The rising actionThe rising action takes place throughout the novel when Holden’s attempts to get in touch with other people get his conflicting impulses –To interact with adults or to get retreated by them –into direct conflict.

The Climax

The novel reach the climax at the end of Holden’s meeting with his sister, Phoebe Caulfield, he said to her that he is leaving and she answered that she would like to go with him but he denied and took her to the Zoo when he said “no I cannot take you with me” so she became angry. After he tried to call her attention because he did not like her to be mad at him, when it started to rain she asked him if he is taking her back home and if he is going back as well; he said “yes. ”

Falling Action

Ending the novel Holden realized that he started to miss everyone, his classmates, roommates, professors at pencey, even the man from the hotel’s elevator, Maurice.

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  • Relationships sexuality, intimacy, loneliness, lying and deception
  • Protagonist
  • Holden Caulfield
  • Foreshadowing
  • Holden hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. In that way he starts to tell the story at the beginning of the novel.


The tone in the novel varies between the disgust, nostalgic longing, bitterness and cynicism in all of the paragraphs, a special characteristic is that all of them are expressed in a colloquial style.

The overall tone of the novel mirrors Holden’s cynicism more than it refutes it. Though he meets some adults who treat him with compassion, like the nuns he talks to at the coffeeshop or the woman running the coat check at the Wicker Bar, most of the adult characters are presented fairly unsympathetically. For example, the dialogue of the women he meets in the Lavender Bar encourages the reader to think Holden is accurate in describing them as “real morons.” Carl Luce does seem as pretentious as Holden believes him to be, using affected phrases like “must we pursue this horrible trend of thought,” and “I simply happen to find Eastern philosophy more satisfactory than Western.” Other adults take advantage of Holden, most notably Maurice and Sunny, who rob him and beat him up. Even the characters who are nice to Holden, such as Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini, appear more pathetic than admirable. Mrs. Morrow is depicted as kind but deluded about her son’s true nature. By portraying many of the adults as pretentious, self-deluded, and unsavory, Salinger presents a pessimistic, cynical tone that suggests Holden has little to look forward to in the adult world, and is right to resist growing up.

Literary Devices


Holden’s red hunting hat has a bunch of meanings. An example of it is his security and individuality. Holden is a lonely guy and is not able to build connection with other around him as a result he uses his hat as a shield. Holden feels unique using the hat as long as it helps him to build a barrier for others not to have a relationship with the society so that he can quickly turn aside the entire onus to the hat if someone shucks off him. There is a special place that Holden use to visit in the story which is The Museum of Natural History. This place acts out the Holden’s wish to stop time and never to grow up. In the Museum everything is show as was in the past all the time and this is what he loves from there.


The most common demonstration of Irony during the novel is Holden attitude. He seems to be the most normal person everywhere he goes however he made a commentary about his way of thinking and craziness. “I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her. I’m crazy. I didn’t even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her. I swear to God I’m crazy. I admit it. ” (p. 124).


Occasionally, Holden made a reference and alluded to the bible when Sunny, the prostitute Maurice sent to Holden’s bedroom, left. He began to break down the Jesus’s disciples actions. He cannot stand them because he felt that they were unqualified during Jesus’s life. He said that Jesus would not send Judas to hell however Jesus’s disciples would do it. Holden looks at the world as good as bad, or as right as wrong so that I can comprehend the complexity of his God which is what bible brings to light.


Foreshadowing is central to the narrative structure of The Catcher in the Rye. The novel opens with Holden living with his brother D.B. in Los Angeles after having been placed in an unspecified medical facility. He then goes on to recount the events leading up to his hospitalization. As Holden puts it to the reader: “I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy.” His use of the word “madman” and the euphemism “run-down” suggest the nature of his breakdown without explaining it in full, but Holden’s narrative allows the reader to speculate about possible reasons for his hospitalization.

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To sum up, the novel, ‘The Catcher in The Rye’, is symbolic from the point of view of a teenager who struggles to find a suitable place in the society. Holden is described as enduring strong competing behaviour. Holden resembles lots of personalities such as generosity, guilty, feeling the need of protection. However, Holden´s unendurable loss of his brother Allie makes it challenging to behave normally. Therefore, channelizing the love he feels for Phoebe as he wants to protect her. In addition, he feels protective for Jane when she is on a date with Stradlater. The protagonist’s journey through trauma, excitement and protectiveness is a part of human nature to fear change and accept loss. Therefore, Holden is successful in overcoming the struggle between holding on to innocence and gaining knowledge.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Plot Structure and Literary Devices in “The Catcher in The Rye”. (2022, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“Plot Structure and Literary Devices in “The Catcher in The Rye”.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2022,
Plot Structure and Literary Devices in “The Catcher in The Rye”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jul. 2024].
Plot Structure and Literary Devices in “The Catcher in The Rye” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Dec 16 [cited 2024 Jul 19]. Available from:
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