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J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye Essay

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J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye


     The novel The Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger, contains many complex symbols, many of the symbols in the book are interconnected. A symbol is an object represents an idea that is important to the novel. I believe the most important symbol in this novel is Holden’s idea of being the “catcher in the rye”.

     Holden Caulfield, the main character in the novel, is not the typical sixteen year old boy. Holden has many characteristics that aren’t typical of anyone that I know. Holden is very afraid of growing up. He feels the adult world is “phony”, everyone in it, and everything associated with it. Holden never actually states that he is afraid of growing up, or that he hates the idea of it, instead he expresses his resistance to become an adult by making the adult world into a place full of “phony”, dishonest, and shallow people, and comparing it to the honest, innocent, and fun world a child lives in.

     Throughout this book Holden’s main quest is to try and preserve the innocence in both him, and in everyone around him. He knows that adults have already taken the path leading to “phoniness”, but he tries to save children from this fate that toward the end of the book he sadly realizes is almost completely inevitable. In order to keep the “phoniness” from infecting the children’s life, and his, he thinks he needs to preserve the innocence of himself and of the children. The biggest example of his need to preserve the innocence in himself and in all the children he meets in the book is his vision of being the catcher in the rye.

     In Chapter 16 Holden hears a young boy singing a song that’s lyrics were “if a body catch a body coming through the rye.” Before seeing this boy Holden is walking down the street feeling rather depressed, like he is most of the time due to the fact that he gets depressed quite easily. Once Holden sees this boy he automatically cheers up. One reason for this is most likely because this young boy is walking on the side of the street instead of the sidewalk with his parents, which most other people would choose. This shows that this boy still has the innocence and does not feel the need to conform to everyone else yet as many adults do. I believe he also liked this boy because he says, “his parents paid no attention to him.” This displays the fact that the boy has a f...


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...s going. Holden thinks it’s amazing that Phoebe is still seeing the same things he used to see all the time, every time he stepped foot into that museum he would always feel the same thing. No one feels comfortable with change, for the better or for the worse, but Holden especially isn’t. Holden says, “Certain things, they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases.” He knows that this is impossible, but he wishes just the same. He wishes he could think of everything the way he thinks of Allie, his dead brother, completely innocent. Allie died when he was young and therefore never had to go through the transition into adulthood. He wishes that Jane could be stuck into a glass case, not die, but get stuck in a big glass case where she would still always keep her kings in the back row.

Holden Caulfield wishes so much to be the “catcher in the rye”. This symbol in the book reveals many things about him and his thoughts. After this symbol and his talk about the lawyers we learn that his whole ideals he expresses before this in the book are totally superficial. This symbol is the most meaningful and complex symbol in the novel.


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