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Holden’s Red Hunting Hat And It’s Symbolism

1497 words - 6 pages

Can a hat really provide a person with emotion, or for that matter, can a hat ever protect a person from their own emotions? In the book The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger the image of the main character’s red hunting hat comes up many times. Holden, the main character buys a hat while he is in New York with his school fencing team. Holden has just been kicked out of his school because for academic reasons, he decides to leave his school before the winter break starts, so he goes to New York. Steering clear from his family, except for his sister, he stays there for about three days on his own. During this time a lot happens to Holden, causing him to grow up. Holden’s hat is a metaphor for Holden’s growing up; in the beginning of the book Holden uses his hat frequently to combat as well as bring on emotion, then when he gets to New York and begins to grow up more, he uses his hat less frequently; at the end of the book Holden realizes that he doesn’t need his hat, and gives it to his sister.

Holden’s hat allows him to show and hide his emotions. Holden uses his hunting hat to speak freely and emotionally about his brother in an essay for Stradlater. After Holden gets back from being out with Brossard and Ackley he sits down to write a composition about Allie. Before he does this, he “put on [his] pajamas and bathrobe and [his] old hunting hat,” (37). Holden puts on his hunting hat so that he can write about his brother who died three years before this story takes place. Holden would not normally wear his hat to bed, so we can assume that he doesn’t wear it as a part of his pajamas. Putting it on before he writes an essay about his brother suggests that he put it on for that reason. At another time Holden uses his hat to supress his emotions. When Stradlater gets home from his date with Jane Gallagher, he and Holden get in a fight. When it is over, both Holden and Stradlater are left in physical pain. “I kept sitting there on the floor till I heard old Stradlater close the door and go down the corridor to the can, then I got up. I couldn’t find my goddam hunting hat anywhere. Finally I found it… I put it on, and turned the old peak around to the back, the way I liked it” (45). The fight that Holden has with Stradlater is about Stradlater going out on a date with Holden’s friend Jane Gallagher. Holden gets upset with Stradlater for doing that because he thinks that Stradlater will cause Jane to lose her innocence. After Holden puts his hat on he stops thinking about Jane’s innocence and about his face, a more rational, less emotional subject. At another time Holden’s hunting hat allows him to show his emotions. Holden decides to leave Pencey early, as he is leaving he is very emotional. “I was sort of crying…I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, ‘Sleep tight, ya morons!’ (52). In this passage Holden is crying because he is...

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