Catcher in the Foul Language

By: Gabrielle Christie

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of those novels that you can't ever forget reading. It represents the inner chaos within a teenager and what runs through the mind of the confused and the lost. When first glance, this book just seems confusing and monotonous. That there is no substance only just a substantial amount of ranting and randomness that feels like you are off into a distant world. Then you get to the reality of the book. The child doesn't have anything that feels "real" to him except for his sister Phoebe. The reason that I chose this novel for digital scholarship is for the use of foul language and how there was no barrier or filter when it came to being inside of the mind of this unusual character. It is also one of the most memorable novels I have read during my youth. Using this novel wasn't that difficult since finding a pdf online was pretty simple. I then decided to use Voyant Tools My as my method of analysis. Using voyant allowed me to be able to get the word count of the foul language within the novel. The main of objective of this analysis is to find out if having language similar to this novel makes an impact on the message being portrayed in a novel.


When first using Voyant, I discovered that the amount of times that foul language was used was broken down based on the words used. The main choice of words is goddam, hell and damn. The amount of for each was substantial being in the top 20 words in the frequent chart. The word goddam was said 245 times, hell was said 225 times and damn was said 125 times. In an article in the Time Magazine,"The researchers found that on average, teen novels contain 38 instances of profanity, which translates to nearly seven curse words per hour of reading. Of the 40 books in the study, 88% contained at least one "bad word (Sifferlin, "Profanity in Teen Novels: Characters Who Curse Are Often the Most Desirable")." It relays that at least one bad word is used while in this novel itself there is a total of 595 counts of the use of profanity. This novel alone exceeds the minimum that is seen in the articles findings. It is viewed that novels, films, television all have an influence on the adolescence and how they act based on an attachment towards a particular character. Now in this case it was used based on popular novels such as Gossip Girl and Tweak which are recreational novels while this novel was used in an educational setting.


Education has evolved over time and has shown that it can be open to novels that are more "risky" in terms of the systems guidelines. In an article from the LA Times, a high school banned The Catcher in the Rye from their English classes. The article states, "Opponents criticized the book's profanity, saying the novel was blasphemous and promoted anti-family (Rotella, "Board Bans 'Catcher in the Rye' From High School English Class")." It is seen as a negative influence on children but you would think at that age it would be acceptable to read the novel. Even though this article was released in the 1989 its still that mentality that one novel will cause retaliation. It is supposed to be used to broaden their pallet and open the minds to different layers of society. It is putting the child in a bubble and trying to protect their innocence is the reason why having these novels in school necessary. Even though novels are influential so are other forms of platforms. This day in age it ranges from television to social media sites. Profanity is everywhere and eventually parents need to realize that its more and more difficult to contain. In an article, "A Helluva Read": Profanity in Adolescent Literature, "Of interest, male and female characters used similar amounts and types of profanity. This goes against research in real life (Foote and Woodward, 1973) and in other mediums that find that men use more profanity than women, especially the seven dirty words (e.g., Cressman et al., 2009). Similarly, we also found that author gender did not have an effect on the frequency and type of profanity in adolescent literature (Conye, Callister, Stockdale, p.377)." This describes that it doesn't matter what gender the character or author is profanity is part of adolescence and should be accepted. It might not be the most accepted part of the language world but it is part of it and shouldn't be shunned for using such vocabulary to represent a feeling or emotion. Whichever way one vocalizes should be seen as a freedom of speech and shouldn't be banned based on a parent's personal opinion specifically at the high school level.


The tool used for this project voiced what was found in the articles that profanity is prevalent not only in television but also within literature for adolescents. It should be viewed as a way of expression and was seen in the novel that was studied. The tool also revealed using graphs when the words were most frequently used within the novel which was an eye opener. This tool was very useful for my project because the goal was to figure out if profanity really affected the reader and how it was viewed in society. It proved that such did but wasn't noticeable in this day in age because this is a technological word and paperback is now seen as something of the past. The novel represents the scandal and the risks that were taken in adolescent literature in order to give a raw and honest story about life of a broken child. One that didn't need to be buffered or sugar coated.



Coyne, Sarah M., et al. ""A Helluva Read": Profanity In Adolescent Literature." Mass Communication and Society 15.3 (2012): 360-383.Communication and Mass Media Complete. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Rotella, Sebastian. "Board Bans 'Catcher in the Rye' From High School English Class." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 1989. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Sifferlin, Alexandra. "Profanity in Teen Novels: Characters Who Curse Are Often the Most Desirable |" Time. Time, 18 May 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.