The Catcher In the Rye: Symbolism

The Catcher In the Rye: Symbolism

The Catcher In the Rye Essay
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Not very many novels have had the chance of being studied, and essays written on them. One such novel to have had such an opportunity is the book published in 1951 “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D Salinger. A good catcher in the rye essay example is the symbolism that is seen throughout the book. This article focuses on symbolism in catcher in the rye.

This is an essay that shows the symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher in the Rye at a Glance

Catcher in the Rye is a book written by J.D. Salinger in 1951. It follows the story of Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old adolescent boy. The events that have transpired in his short life have turned him into almost an outcast in society. Most significantly is the loss of his younger brother to leukemia. The notion of death and loss, in general, is a challenge for Holden. Like most other children, Holden perceives death as an adult thing, and he, therefore, refuses to mature. His reckless acts cause him to be expelled yet again from his fourth school. It is then that he wanders through New York City during wintertime. We get to learn about his fears, the things that he loves and are important to him. What scares him the most is growing into an adult and becoming a “phony one.” His idealism forces to alienate himself, rejecting others because he considered them to be “phony.”

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Other characters include:

  • Mr. Spencer
  • Carl Luce
  • Sally Hayes
  • Maurice
  • Sunny

Holden considered all of them to be superficial and pretentious people. That was a judgment deserving for Maurice and Sunny who weren’t nice individuals. The symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye is revealed in five instances:

  • The “catcher in the rye.”
  • The Museum of Natural History
  • The red hunting hat
  • The central park lagoon ducks
  • Holden’s little brother baseball Mitt

Symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

The symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye is in the title. There are two instances when the symbolism plays out. First, when the young kid walks down the street while singing “comin’ thro’ the rye”. He disregards the dangers that come with walking down the street rather than the sidewalk. The second time is when Holden pictures himself as a “catcher” in the rye. Ironically he doesn’t have the correct lyrics of the song. “Comin’ Thro” the rye speaks of a man and woman meeting in the fields and having recreational sex. According to him the lyrics to the song are:

If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye.”

At least that’s how he imagines himself. He fancies himself a “savior” of children. He doesn’t want their innocence taken. He despises adulthood. Symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye title is revealed when Holden replaces the word “meet” with “catch,” in the lyrics of the song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” Ideally, that song is about sex, while Holden considers it his inspiration for catching the children before they are stripped of their innocence and into adulthood. He loathes the idea of sex, and therefore, it’s ironic that it’s a song that inspires him and he relates to.

The Ducks at The Central Park Lagoon

Ducks at the central park lagoon are another piece of symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden’s concern for the ducks reveals a lot about his emotional state and the thoughts he harbors towards life and change in general. Holden wonders what happens to the ducks at the central park lagoon during winter.

Does someone pull in with a lorry and take them away?

Do they just fly away?

What if they don’t have a place to go? Then what happens to them?

The thought seems childish, and those he asks consider him to be strange. In total contrast, he is a smart individual but with his reservations. Having been expelled from his fourth school, he wonders what will happen to him just like the ducks. He is still a child on the inside and doesn’t want to grow into adulthood.

The Red Hunting Hat

Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat bears some symbolism. Throughout the book catcher in the rye, whenever Holden wore the red hat it was mentioned. Its oddness and redness reveal something about Holden’s character and personality. The red color of the hat was similar to his siblings’ hair, both Allie and his sister had red hair. He probably felt that the hat was a means of maintaining a connection to them. We note that he only wore the hat around strangers. It was an odd hat, which made him unique from the rest of the people as he didn’t want to be a “phony.”

The symbolism in catcher in the rye, when we consider the red hunting hat reveals a conflicted state of living by Holden. He prefers isolation but longs for companionship which would explain why he wore the hat at other times and when he did not. He prefers isolation because he considers adults to be phonies and superficial. The judgment he places on them prevents him from forming meaningful relationships.

The Museum of Natural History

The symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye can be seen with the mention of the Museum of Natural History. His visit to the museum plays well into his fantasy of the catcher in the rye. At the Museum, the exhibits can be considered frozen in time and unchanging. Something that Holden longs for. He wishes that the world could be like the museum where everything remained the same through time. He wants a black and white world, with no grey areas. That means life is simple and straightforward, no complications such as death.

Holden’s Little Brother Baseball Mitt

Allie, Holden’s little brother, died of leukemia at age 8. It was a death that Holden took so hard and has been incapable of dealing with. It’s considered to be the primary cause of his emotional instability. He holds onto his baseball mitt as a symbol of his love for him. Holden believes his death to be senseless. He was a poet, kind and sensitive. The baseball mitt as a piece of symbolism in catcher in the rye shows us the softer side of Holden, and the value he places on those he adores. The baseball mitt has a poem Allie wrote before his passing. Holden doesn’t understand why death would snatch such a special and wonderful person from the world.

Conclusion

Symbolism in a catcher in the rye is commonly reflected upon. It highlights the struggles a majority of the people in society go through. The emotional instability revealed can be related to by most people. Death, for anyone whether child or adult can be challenging to cope with. In The Catcher in the Rye essay, the main character Holden suffers a loss that ultimately changes his attitude towards life and ability to form relationships. The 5 main pieces of symbolism indicate the struggles that he faces and his emotional instability.

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