Skip Nav

The Catcher In the Rye: Symbolism

Suggested Essay Topics

❶His reckless acts cause him to be expelled yet again from his fourth school. Wrong email address or password!

What our customers say

Study Questions
From the SparkNotes Blog
Get free study materials

The transition between childhood innocence and adulthood is long and confusing, often uncovering questions that cannot be answered. During the process the adult world seems inviting and free, but only when we become members of a cruel, unjust society can the blissful ignorance of childhood be appreciated and missed. The novel Catcher in the Rye explores how adult life appears complex and incomprehensible to teenagers on the brink of entering it.

Through the main protagonist Holden Caulfield, J. Salinger captures the confusion of a teenager when faced with the challenge of adapting to an adult society. When Holden Caulfield is first introduced as a character he appears to be a fairly typical, normal teenager.

The natural human response to a threatening situation is either fight or flight. The museum serves as his escape from complicated adult life because unlike reality, the museum remains unchanged.

Holden wants to find security and the museum offers him a simplified version of life he desperately craves. The author uses the cliff to symbolically refer to a child losing his or her innocence and becoming an adult. The fact that Holden feels he wants to prevent children from falling into adulthood gives the reader an insight into his own mind. He is clearly scared and not emotionally ready to grow up and complete his transition from a child to an adult.

When Holden visits Mr. Spencer has a far superior knowledge of how the world functions due to his age. His message to Holden is to become socially intelligent and to take a broad view of how his actions affect the world. He is also unable to make clear, rational decisions. Holden is very impulsive and can only think within the moment.

The way in which Holden makes snap decisions insinuates that he is very confused and unable to organise his thoughts in a mature fashion, exposing that his child-like state of mind still dominates the more logical and mature part of his brain. Holden begins to show signs of withdrawal from society immediately after leaving Pencey Prep.

He daydreams about being alone and being independent. Holden would prefer to live in isolation where no one expects anything of him, rather than face the fact he is gradually becoming part of a society where he is expected to contribute his efforts. Anyone who Holden perceives to have affectations, he deems to be different from him.

These people appear to be socially intelligent and are generally accepted into society, unlike Holden. He is perceptive enough to recognise the faults of society and expresses this knowledge by resisting the call of adulthood. Yet several times during the novel Holden contradicts himself by acting decidedly phony. Although this behaviour depicts Holden as being once again very immature, in actual fact the recognition that he needed to be false in order to avoid conflict with another being shows that as a person he is beginning to evolve.

For Holden it appears his priority, though subconsciously perhaps, is to discover where he belongs. Holden finds himself in this catch situation and unable to see a way out. Holden obviously draws a parallel between his life and the life of the ducks. Holden uses this alienation from the world around him as a defence mechanism in order to protect himself. He finds interacting with other people confusing and overwhelming, so by alienating himself from people he does not have to face up to this.

Holden was devastated by the tragedy, which has already happened by the time we are introduced to Holden. He has essentially shut down and repeatedly mentions how important it is for him not to get too attached to people. This highlights the fact that Holden is not comfortable in opening up to anybody, because he is afraid of making a connection and then losing that person. This goes a long way towards explaining why Holden almost seems to be sabotaging any relationship that he begins to form!

This fear has such a tight grip on Holden that he continues to spiral into deep depression and loneliness to the extent that by the end of the novel he is afraid to even speak to anyone. It continues to move in circles and always stays in the same pace; it stays the same while the children who ride it continue to grow older. It would seem, then, that the pleasure Holden takes in watching Phoebe ride is, like his moments at the museum and watching Phoebe sleep, self-deceptive.

But Holden does show some signs of growth. If they fall off, they fall off. Holden cannot prevent them from doing it or save them, just as he cannot prevent or save himself from becoming an adult. This recognition brings about a huge emotional release for him, and he begins to cry; the sky emulates him with a thunderstorm. Though Holden never describes his psychological breakdown directly, it becomes clear as the novel progresses that he is growing increasingly unstable. Salinger uses two main techniques with great efficiency.

When Holden describes walking to the Central Park duck pond late at night, for instance, he casually mentions that he had icicles in his hair and worried about catching pneumonia, but he does not seem to consider it strange to walk outdoors with wet hair in freezing weather.

Symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

- The Catcher in the Rye - Symbolism In the Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses different examples of symbolism throughout the novel to let the reader into the thoughts of Holden Caulfield. Three major examples of his symbolism are the ducks with the frozen pond, Jane Gallagher, and the Museum of Natural History.

Privacy FAQs

The Catcher in the Rye essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of .

About Our Ads

One such novel to have had such an opportunity is the book published in “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D Salinger. A good catcher in the rye essay example is the symbolism that is seen throughout the book. This article focuses on symbolism in catcher in the rye. This is an essay that shows the symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye. Catcher in the Rye at . In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger perfectly captures a teenage boy’s struggle with adolescence. The story is told from the perspective of Holden Caulfield, who is widely regarded as “ the original sullen teenager” (National Public Radio, ).

Cookie Info

Essay on Symbols and Symbolism in Catcher in the Rye - The Catcher in the Rye - Symbolism In the Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses different examples of symbolism throughout the novel to let the reader into the thoughts of Holden Caulfield. Catcher in the Rye Essay The Themes of Loneliness & Alienation in J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ Loneliness and alienation are two very important themes in J.D. Salinger’s novel ‘The Catcher in The Rye’.