Symbolism in the Catcher in the Rye

Throughout the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger obtain numerous symbols that persist in the book. The symbols I have chosen display Holden Caufield’s emotions, actions, and way of life. There are three symbols unparticular that are used most regularly in the novel. I’ve selected Holden’s red hunting hat, the Museum of Natural History, and the Ducks in Central Park Lagoon. All three of these symbols have great significance in this book.
In the novel Holden says “I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my god dam voice, “Sleep tight, ya morons! ” I’ll bet I woke up every bastard on the whole floor. Then I got the hell out. Some stupid guy had thrown peanut shells all over the stairs, and I damn near broke my crazy neck. ” (Chapter 7, pg. 52) The red hunting hat is inseparable from the image of Holden Caufield, with good reason.
It’s a symbol of uniqueness and individuality as well. Holden also says in Chapter 16 “I took my old hunting hat out of my pocket while I walked, and put it on. I knew I wouldn’t meet anyone that knew me, and it was pretty damp out. ” The hat is eccentric and displays Holden’s desires to be diverse from everyone else around him, yet at the same time Holden is very self-conscious about the red hunting hat. He always mentions when he’s wearing it and he often doesn’t wear it if he is going to be around people he associates with.
Therefore, the point that the author is trying to make is that the presence of the hat, mirrors the major conflict of the book which is Holden’s need for isolation versus his need for companionship. Another detail is that the hat’s color, red is the same color as Allie’s and Phoebe’s hair. Perhaps Holden interacts with it with the innocence and the purity he believes with these characters represents and wears it as a way to connect to them. Holden never comments on the hat’s significance other than to mention its unusual appearance.
In the book, Holden explains the symbol meaning of the museum’s displays. One detail he says is “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. ” (Chapter 16, page 121) Holden also mentions that he is troubled by the fact that he has changed every time he returns to them. The museum represents the world Holden wishes he could live in, a world where everything is simple, understandable, and indefinite.
I think the point the author is trying to make is that Holden is terrified about the unpredictable challenges of the world. He’s trying to get across that Holden hates conflict, he’s confused by Allie’s senseless death, and he fears interaction with other people. Holden’s curiosity about where the ducks go during winter shows a more genuine and youthful side to his character. I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. “I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go?
I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away. ” (Chapter 12, pg. 81) The Ducks in the pond are symbolic in many ways, they prove that some vanishings are only temporary. Holden, traumatized and aware of the fragility of the life by his brother Allie’s death, Holden is terrified by the idea of change and disappearances. The Ducks vanish every winter, but they return every spring.
The point the authors trying to make is the pond itself becomes a minor metaphor for the world as Holden sees it, because it is “partly frozen” and “partly not frozen”. The pond is in transition between two states, just as Holden is in transition between childhood and adulthood. In conclusion, there are countless symbols in The Catcher in the Rye. I personally thought the red hunting hat, The Museum of Natural History, and The Ducks in the Central Park Lagoon were the most significant and came up regularly in the novel. Each symbol has a different effect on Holden Caufield’s Life, emotions, and actions.

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