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Symbolism In Catcher In The Rye Essay Definition


Symbolism in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

The novel The Catcher in the Rye is full of symbols. Actually symbol refers to the objects, characters, figures used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. The Symbol also carries the theme.


Jerome David Salinger

We can find that the title of the novel The Catcher in the Rye is symbolic. Rye is a kind of crop field on the top of a cliff which stands for the children's innocent world. Holden, the main character of the novel, wants to be the protector of children before they fall out of innocence into knowledge of the adult world including knowledge of sex. It is highly ironic that the word 'meets' refers to the physical attachment and Holden's substituting. The 'catch' takes on the exact opposite meaning in his mind.

Another symbol is Holden's Red Hunting Hat. His hat represents him in isolation, self- consciousness. It refers to the symbol of his uniqueness and individuality. The color of the hat is red which symbolizes the purity and innocence. He had bought the hat for one dollar in New York when he did not have the fencing equipment. The cap is though useful at times, it looks odd and strange with its extra-long bill and ear flaps. It is the emblem of Holden's pleasant fascination to unusual qualities, in objects as well as people that others around him would miss. He loves to wear it with the bill pointing to the back, as a baseball catcher might.

Museum of National History is another symbol. The museum is the symbol of Holden's world; it is the world of his catcher in the Rye's fantasy, a world where nothing ever changes, where everything is simple, understandable. Holden fears with complex things, he hates conflict. Holden wants to showcase the children like the things are kept in the museum. The museum is his platonic world where he wishes to live. He finds himself changing every time he visits the museum, but the museum remains same, static.  He is terrifically afraid of the unpredictable flux in the world and in the relationships. His fear of interaction is symbolically represented by the mute museum.

Ducks in the central park Lagoon are another important symbol. Holden's search for the ducks represents the curiosity of youth and a joyful willingness to encounter the mysteries of the world. The duck and ponds are very symbolic. The duck proves that some vanishing is only temporary. Holden is terrified by the idea of change and disappear. The ducks vanish every winter but return every spring. It symbolizes that life has motion and nature in itself like that.

Pencey Prep and Elkton Hills schools also stand for some symbolic meanings. For Holden, these schools represent the phony, cruel world of the administrators. Even the advertisements for Pencey Prep are deceptive. They feature "some hot shot guy on a horse" performing horse-riding feats. Holden mockingly says he has never seen a horse at Pencey. The school's slogan is equally disgusting to Holden: "Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men." Holden thinks perhaps there are two boys who fit that description, and they probably might have come to Pencey that way. For Holden, the two schools are representative of a corrupt system planned by adults and catering to boys who want to join their ranks. Holden's dilemma is that he struggles so hard against a system into which he was born.

Allie's left-handed baseball glove is smaller in size, but the significant symbol in the novel. It embodies Holden's love for his departed brother as well as Allie's uniqueness. Allie kept poems written in green ink so that he would have something to read when things got boring in the baseball field. This mitt is not a catcher's mitt; it is a fielder's glove. Holden has shown it to only one person outside the family: Jane Gallagher.

The pond becomes minor metaphor for the world because it is partly frozen and partly not frozen. It is in the transition between two states just as Holden is in transition between childhood and adulthood.

Symbolism in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye Essay

2842 Words12 Pages

Many novels cannot be fully understood and appreciated if only read for face value, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is no exception. The abundant use of symbolism in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is of such significance that it “proclaims itself in the very title of the novel” (Trowbridge par. 1). If the symbolism in this novel is studied closely, there should be no astonishment in learning that The Catcher in the Rye took approximately ten years to write and was originally twice its present length. J.D. Salinger uses copious amounts of symbolism in his novel to accurately convey the feelings of his main character, Holden, and, in essence, to reveal information pertaining to human sentiment. Many of these symbols contain…show more content…

The ducks are first brought to the reader’s attention while Holden is visiting his teacher, Mr. Spencer, regarding his removal from Pencey. While conversing with Mr. Spencer, however, Holden’s mind drifts elsewhere. His mind drifts back to New York as he wonders to himself if the lagoon in Central Park is frozen over, and if so, where do the ducks go? A direct parallel can be drawn from the ducks in the lagoon to Holden’s present situation. He is mandated to leave Pencey, but has no idea where he belongs after leaving. Just like the ducks in the lagoon, “Holden is essentially homeless, frozen out” (Trowbridge par. 1). Holden’s life has not been filled with an abundance of stability and now what little he had is gone, albeit due to faults of his own, and he sees an unsure and hazy future. Holden inquires about the state of the ducks to the driver of the first cab he catches in New York, and the driver believes that he is kidding. Later on, he asks another cab driver if somebody came around “in a truck or something to take them away” or if they flew away “by themselves” (Salinger 81-82). Knowing what happens to these ducks, knowing that they are safe and secure even though the lagoon is frozen would provide Holden with a sense of comfort about his current state of affairs. What seems to be a ridiculous and meaningless question to the

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