Etymology And Symbolism Of Characters' Names In Catcher In The Rye

2140 words - 9 pages

The Etymology and Symbolism of Characters' Names in Catcher in the Rye

 
    Catcher in the Rye's pallid cover, adorned only with seven multicolored bands in its upper-left corner, is not what one would call eye-catching. Its reverse side lacks criticisms or reviews of any sort; in fact, it is bare of anything except a copyright date. Human beings are advised not to judge books by their covers, rather that they should look further than the obvious and try to apprehend the implied meaning. The world has peered past Catcher in the Rye's cover, cracked its pure, uniform shell of cardboard and discovered the novel of a decade, a story that has now made the name "Holden Caulfield" synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Within the novel, however, there are more "books" into which we can read a bit more deeply - the characters. It seems quite obvious that their personalities correspond with the root meanings of their names. Would brilliant author J.D. Salinger pick the name "Holden" for the protagonist without reason? Analysis uncovers connections between themes and mannerisms that are far too relevant to have been coincidental. Holden Caulfield, his younger sister Phoebe, and a cast of minor characters such as Ackley, James Castle, Carl Luce, Faith Cavendish, and Sally Hayes are several characters whose names display these connections.

 

As the novel opens, Holden Caulfield stands poised on a hill separating him from the rest of his school at the annual football game. He is both isolated from and above the level of his peers, watching the big game from a distance. His position is a metaphor for his views on life. The phoniness of life disgusts him, and he longs to live in a world free of the tainted hypocrisy he is seeing more and more of as he grows older. He sees the game as a collection of the "phonies" he detests, and is avoiding joining them. He is "Holden" back, not allowing himself to become a part of the ugliness he sees in virtually everyone. Chains of contempt for the world act as manacles that secure his superior attitude and ensure he will not become what he hates. The name "Holden" flawlessly portrays his inability to join society because of his high ideals for it. Caulfield, his last name, relates to recurring theme of childhood innocence. A "caul" is defined as a part of the amnion, one of the membranes enveloping the fetus, which sometimes is around the head of a child at its birth. The caul protects young children, just as Holden dreams to do when he tells Phoebe his ideal profession would be the catcher in the field of rye. Of course, the second section of his last name represents the field of rye. The few instants when Holden is genuinely happy and unaffected by his painful awakenings to the adult world deal with children, because he feels they are uncorrupted. Walking down the street in New York, Holden's rusted manacles of almost perpetual depression are unlocked when he sees a...

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