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Exactly what is Holden talking about when he says something like that? He's describing a very personal, private feeling he's had, maybe more than once, and he's trying to make it sound like something everyone experiences.
Probably no one has experienced exactly what he's referring to, but you might have had that type of feeling. So, even if his details sound a bit strange, the point he's making with these generalizations usually comes across clearly.
Think about how much information Salinger has packed into this seemingly informal opening chapter. Holden may appear to be rambling, giving you random tidbits about himself and constantly wandering off into digressions. But consider how much you already know about him:
• He's in a health facility, being treated for a condition that probably resulted from "all this madman stuff," and that might have been complicated by a close brush with tuberculosis ("I practically got t.b.").
• The comments he makes at the very beginning about his parents tell you he probably doesn't get along very well with them.
• His camel's-hair coat and the fact
that he goes to Pencey tell
you his family has money. The
fact that he feels it necessary
to mention that the Spencers don't
have a maid tells you that his
family may be quite wealthy.
• His reaction to Selma Thurmer suggests that he's willing to delve beneath someone's appearance or outward behavior, though he might deny that because it doesn't sound tough.
• His willingness to visit a teacher he'll never see again-as much as he doesn't want to go-suggests a sense of responsibility.
Other things are also hinted at in the first chapter. If you take another look at it you'll discover things that are subtly suggested, rather than stated outright.
Salinger is aiming here for a true-to-life, three-dimensional portrait of a teenager many of us recognize. Holden doesn't especially want to tell us about himself, so we have to find out a great deal indirectly. Salinger's success depends partly on how intelligently you read what he has written.