The use of forshadowing in a novel can help it’s reader get a sense of what is to come in the story without giving away the events themselves. It is a powerful tool which prevents events from being left unexplained, leaving the reader question the effectivness of an outcome. The eventual breakdown of the character Holden Caufield in J. D. Salinger’s controversial 1945 novel “The Catcher in the Rye” was foreshadowed in the early chapters of the book.
The first clue is his negative approach to life. He begins by talking about is “lousy childhood” (p. 1) and the first traces of profanity can be seen scattered about the page in the form of “crap”, “hell” and “goddam”. Holden’s first sign of distrust comes when he speaks to Ward Stradlater about his date with Jane Gallagher: “Listen. Give my regards, willya? ” “Okay,” Stradlater said, but I knew he probably wouldn’t… “Ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row. ” “Okay,” Stradlater said, but I knew he wouldn’t. (p. 33-34)
This is seen again when he doesn’t trust Stradlater to stop his advances of Jane in he case that she says no. Holden gives up his faith in people to trust him when he boards a bus holding a snowball. The driver refuses to believe that Holden won’t throw the snowball so he draws the conclusion that “People never believe you. ” (p. 37). He is also always placing labels upon people as being “phonies” which gives the reader the idea that Holden thinks that others are materialistic. Holdens attempts to protect the innocence in the world is another early sign of his deteriorating state.
When Holden goes to Pheobe’s school to deliver his note he sees some swearing of the wall which he says “drove me damn near crazy” (p. 201). He wipes the words from the wall in an attempt to prevent the inevitable from occuring, leading the reader to believe that he may experience some mental unstability in the future. Eventually he comes to the realization that he can’t rub all the profanity away himself. Another example of Holden’s attempt to shelter innocence is the fact that he never does call Jane, possibly for fear that he will scar his memories of her as an innocent child.
The title of this novel presents this theme to the reader in that Holden wants to be “the catcher in the rye” (p. ) so he can catch all of the children that sway to close to the edge of a cliff in thier play. Perhaps the most obvious example of foreshadowing in the novel occurs when his parents come close to having him “phsycoanalyzed and all” (p. 39) when he breaks all the windows in the garage. Throughout the novel he refers to himself as “a madman” (p. 9) which gives the reader the idea that he sees himself as having a sort of mental problem.
These two peices of evidence alone present a fairly firm idea of what will happen to Holden towards the end of the story. The use of foreshadowing is evident in the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”. It does it’s job well in that it foretells the outcome of Holdens many problems and gives reason for it. The eventual breakdown of Holden is not startling to the reader because of the authors use of foreshadowing and therefore it is effective.