J.DSalinger’s effective use of symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye Symbolism is the use ofsymbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meaning that aredifferent from their literal sense(LiteraryDevices, 2017) J.D Salinger in The Catcher In The Rye effectivelyuses symbolism in order to convey the main idea through Holden’s thoughts andfeelings as well as his personality. The central idea of the novel is theprotection of childhood innocence.
The story involves a 16 year old boy namedHolden who has depression and has been expelled from school. Holden believesadults are fake and that they don’t think for themselves, Holden doesn’t wantto be like them and he is scared of growing up. Salinger uses symbols to helpthe reader understand the idea of protecting childhood innocence and not movingon into the adult world.
They are also used to convey Holden’s fear of becominglike the rest of society. There are four main symbols that Salinger mentionsthroughout the novel that need to be explained which are: the symbolism in thetitle itself, Allie’s baseball mitt, the ducks in the lagoon, and Holden’s redcap. Holden had a youngerbrother named Allie, he was very important to him. Allie died at a young agedue to cancer.
Allie played baseball and Holden got to keep his baseball Mittwhen he passed. “My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder’s mitt. He wasleft handed. The thing that was descriptive about it though, was that he hadpoems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink”(Salinger 43) Allie’s had poems written all over it the reason being to keephim occupied on the field because he thought baseball was boring. Salinger usesthe Globe as a symbol of Holden’s love for Allie.
The mitt shows how Holdenfinds it hard to cope with the death of his brother. And he is unable to live Mercier2with his feelings as they lead to all theproblems he has in school and with people. The baseball Mitt also symbolizesAllie’s unique personality. The poems on the Mitt show how he was differentfrom other People. Allie was a very smart and kind person, different from therest, Holden feels guilty because he believes his brother was a better personthan him and he believes Allie should be alive instead of him.
Salinger’ssymbol of the baseball mitt contributed to the reader’s understanding of howHolden felt about his brother and what kind of person he was, as well show histroubles coping with his loss. After being expelledfrom his school Holden left and traveled to New York. “‘Where the hellja getthat hat?’ he said ‘New York’ ‘How Much’ ‘A Buck'” (Salinger 26) While he wasin New York he purchased a red hunting hat. It wasn’t the typical hat peoplewould wear in the city, it shows how Holden chooses to be different from otherpeople. Holden isolates himself from the world around him and in this way heprotects himself from becoming like them. He doesn’t like the adult world, thehat separates him from it.
Salinger uses the red hunting hat as a symbol ofHolden’s isolation from the rest of the people. It makes him different and heis okay with it because he doesn’t want to be like them. He thinks adults arefake and they do things for the rest of society and not for themselves. Holdenis mostly confident of his hat but he understands that it makes him lookdifferent.
“I took it Off before I checked in. I didn’t want to look like ascrewball or something” (Salinger 68) He took his hat off before checking intoa hotel because he knew he looked a different and he didn’t want to be judged.Salinger also uses the red hunting hat as a symbol of his siblings. The hat wasred and both Allie and his sister Phoebe had red hair, they are the most importantpeople to him. The hat helps remind Holden of them and in that way Salingeruses the hat as a symbol of Holden’s family and his way of protecting himselffrom the adult world.
The symbolism behind the red hunting hat effectivelyshows Holden’s feelings for his family and his point of view on the world andhow he thinks people have become corrupt and don’t think for themselves. Holden in The CatcherIn The Rye constantly brings up the topic of the ducks in the lagoon. InNew York Holden took a taxi in which he asked his driver about the ducks: Mercier 3’Hey, listen,’ I said. ‘You know those ducks inthat lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, doyou happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all Frozen over? Do you happen to know, by anychance?’ I realized it was only one chance in a million’. (Salinger 67) The driver disregards his question and doesn’tgive him an answer. Holden later ask another Cab driver “The ducks.
Do you know, by any chance? I meandoes somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or dothey fly away by themselves – go south or something?” (Salinger 91) Still Holden doesn’t get an actual answer.Salinger uses the fact that Holden keeps asking about the Ducks in the lagoonto symbolize his frustrations with the fact that he doesn’t know what is goingto happen to him now that he is kicked out of school he doesn’t want to becomean adult Holden doesn’t want to grow up. In a sense when he asks what willhappen to the ducks in the winter it symbolizes him asking what will happen tohim, He is concerned about his future. Holden wants to put a pause on his lifehe doesn’t want anything to change. The ducks also symbolize change and thefact that even if he doesn’t want change it must happen, the ducks change andadapt in order to survive in this world just like he will have to change tobecome successful in life. Holden loves the mindset of children he believesit’s the best stage in anyone’s life.
Salinger’s use of symbolism in the Ducksdoes a great job conveying his feelings toward moving on into the adult world. Salinger uses symbolismin the title of the novel itself to convey the central idea of protectingchildhood innocence. Later in the novel phoebe Holden’s sister accuses him thathe doesn’t like anything, she asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. Holden can’t think of anything else except forthis dream he has about of having this job where all he does is stand at theend of a cliff and catch kids who are running and are about to fall off: I keep picturing all these little kids playingsome game in this big field of rye and all.
Thousands of little kids, andnobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the Mercier 4edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, Ihave to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’rerunning 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 allday. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.
I know it’s crazy, but that’sthe only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.” (Salinger 191)The title of the novel The Catcher in the ryerepresents Holden’s dream of being the catcher in the rye (person catching thekids). The title symbolizes that Holden loves the child world and that he trulybelieves that it’s the best stage in anyone’s life. It also symbolizes theprotection of childhood innocence which is the main idea of the book. The cliffrepresents the border between the adult and the child world and the kidsrunning off represents the innocence being lost and them being introduced tothe world of adulthood.
And then there’s Holden who doesn’t want to grow up whohates the adult life trying to protect all these kids from moving on and losingtheir innocence. The idea of the catcher in the rye is one of the mosteffective use of symbolism in the book as it really conveys the central idea ofprotecting the innocence you are born with from the adult life. The use of symbolism inthe catcher in the rye helps the reader understand Holden’s thoughts andfeelings. Without them there wouldn’t be much of a story as they play a majorrole in the development of the plot.
The symbols effectively convey how Holden thinksthe adult world is full of fake people and that he wants to keep children fromfalling into the world of adults and how He wants to protect their innocence.He’s brothers baseball mitt symbolizes how important his brother is to him andhow much he misses him and how it affects him. Holden’s hat symbolizes how hewants to protect himself from the world of adults. And that it reminds him ofhis brother and sister. The ducks in the lagoon symbolizes how Holden is scaredof where he is going in live and he is concerned for the life that is ahead ofhim as he doesn’t know where it will take him. And finally, the title of thenovel symbolizes how Holden hates the world of adults and that he wishes hecould protect every child from it.
Without the symbolism in the catcher in therye Salinger could not convey his message about the adult world as strongly ashe did. The Mercier5Symbolism in this novel played a key role inexplaining how he believes that the world is full of phonies and that being achild is the best part of your life.