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Symbolism In The Catcher In The Rye

1604 words - 7 pages

Throughout literature authors have used symbols to express small pieces of a character’s personality. Learning more about a character’s personality as a reader can make the book more enjoyable and easier to relate to as a person. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden doesn’t want to tell us very much about himself but after you beginning to read the novel you start to learn a lot about Holden’s personality through the symbols that Salinger uses. Salinger uses the symbols of the red hunting hat, the carrousel, and the catcher in the rye story to reveal Holden’s character as unique, childlike, and protective.
Holden Caulfield is a one of a kind sixteen year old. Unlike most teenagers Holden ...view middle of the document...

Holden clearly doesn’t like anyone at his school so this is his last hoorah before leaving all the phonies of Pencey behind him. Holden wearing the cap backwards may also show that he wants to retreat backwards into the world he is leaving rather than going into adolescence, and the adult society (Vanderbilt 298). The cap suggests Holden’s yearning for innocence, and the reversed cap connects back to a baseball cap-specifically catchers, Holden dreams of catching children in a field of rye before they fall off of a cliff (Vanderbilt 298). This dream ties back to Holden’s very unique character.
As Holden is sitting on the bench in the final carrousel scene it begins to “rain like a bastard” (Salinger 212) but Holden just sits where he was and “ got pretty soaking wet” (Salinger 212). He doesn’t care he “Felt so damn happy” (Salinger 213). Holden feels this way because he is watching Phoebe ride the carrousel and it reminds him of his childhood. The rain that falls in this scene is closely related to a past experience that Holden has when he goes to visit Allie’s grave. In both scenes it begins to rain and everyone flees to cover except for one person gets soaked, Allie in the grave scene and Holden in the carrousel scene (Takeuchi 316). The rain can also be a cleansing process as Holden is growing up and going into adulthood, the rain could be washing away Holdens childhood innocence and transforming him into an adult. Johnathan Baumbach characterizes the “purifying rain” as a “manifestation of Allie’s blessed and blessing spirit” (Takeuchi 316). In this novels climactic scene, Holden finally succeeds in joining Allie, not in death, but through the rain. The rain describes Holden’s childlike character because it reminds him of his childhood.
Salinger uses the carrousel scene in another way as well. In the final carrousel scene Holden is sitting on the bench watching Phoebe ride the carrousel. In this scene Holden finally accepts that growing up is a part of life and people just have to accept it. As Holden is sitting there he states “ Then the carrousel started, and I watched her go round and round/all the kids tried to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d falloff the goddam horse, but I didn’t say or do anything”(Salinger 211). This quote explains Holden’s childlike nature by showing that he understands that children have to grow up sometime. While Phoebe is reaching for the ring and risking falling off the horse it symbolizes her risking falling out of childhood innocence. Holden doesn’t do anything because he understands that it is a part of life and people have to go through it at some point and its best to just let it happen instead of trying to interfere with it.
The poem “Coming thro’ the rye” by Robert Burns is where Holden gets the idea of being a catcher in the rye. The poem is first mentioned when Holden is walking through the streets and he hears a boy singing the lyrics to the poem....

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