Symbolism In "The Catcher In The Rye"

1700 words - 7 pages

"The Catcher In The Rye" encompasses very sophisticated meanings and symbols. J.D Salinger has created a symbolic environment for the novel, where everything and everyone represents a particular thing or idea. Salinger incorporates symbolism as an intricate tool for conveying his story to the reader. In my essay I will highlight and explain various important symbols in the novel.One of the most telling symbols in the novel is the name symbolism; Holden Caulfield is not just a name. Because of his perspective of life where everyone is a "phony," the name Holden seems to show that he is 'holden' back, not allowing himself to be absorbed into the ugly, vicious adult world. His last name, Caulfield, has a lot to do with the theme of childhood and innocence expressed throughout the novel. A "caul" is part of a membrane around the head when a child is born. This symbolizes comfort and protection for children. "Field" represents the rye field where Holden wants to become the "Catcher In The Rye" who saves children form falling and entering the hypocritical and "phoney" world of adulthood. This symbol is first used in chapter 16 when Holden sings "Comin' through the rye" as he is walking down the street, and is then used in chapter 22 when Phoebe asks him what he wants to do with his life, he replies with his image, from the song. Holden imagines a field of rye perched high on a cliff, full of children playing. He says he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by "catching" them if they were falling."... I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all." (Chapter 22)As Phoebe points out, Holden misheard the lyric, he thinks the line is "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye," but the actual lyric is "If a body meet a body, coming through the rye." All names have symbols and meanings, and in this novel we can tell that the names have been meticulously chosen to fit the characters. (Ward Stradlater, Sally Hayes, Carl Luce etc...)Throughout the novel we can see the many symbols, both subtle and obvious, represented by people and objects. The red hunting hat is one of the most recognizable symbols. It is a symbol of Holden's uniqueness and individuality. The hat is outlandish, and it shows that Holden wants to be different from everyone around him. At the same time, he is very self-conscious about the hat--he always mentions when he is wearing it, and he often doesn't wear it if he is going to be around people he knows. The hat mirrors the central conflict in the book: Holden's need for isolation versus his need for companionship. Holden later gives his hat to his sister Phoebe before leaving to go out west. She has just given him money to protect him on...

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