Semiotics of Gloves
A glove protects. A glove provides warmth. A glove provides safety. A glove possesses many different qualities. The presence of a glove in Cather in the Rye and Winter’s Bone is something that readers possibly overlook before delving into the true significance of the book. Once readers closely analyze the importance within a text, some realize that a small symbol can mean something more than life to a particular character. Both J.D. Salinger and Daniel Woodrell provide a divine illustration of how individual culture reflects the arbitrary connection of a specific symbol. In Kaja Silverman’s The Subject of Semiotics, theorist Charles Sanders Peirce demonstrates his specific knowledge about sign theory.
He writes that a sign is “something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign” (Silverman 14). Both Jessup’s boxing gloves in Winter’s Bone and Allie’s baseball mitt in Catcher in the Rye creates a concrete understanding of symbolic significance. However, it is essential to recognize more than the symbolic relevance while analyzing a text. The semiotics of each glove provides a lucid understanding as to why the gloves are particularly meaningful within the culture of each story’s plot.
For the sake of closely analyzing the importance of the gloves both between Dee and her brothers to their father, as well as Holden to his younger brother, Allie, it is important to recognize that the glove is representing a deceased figure within both of their lives. Although their cultures run completely parallel to one another, they are also tied together through the semiotics of each individual glove. A glove represents the way you handle certain situations, or getting a handle on the problem. It can also signify holding on to a part of the past.
In both cultures it is deemed acceptable to believe that in this case, Dee and her brothers, as well as Holden are holding on to part of the past that are now in the underworld. While Holden doesn’t express the importance of the relationship between him and Allie until a few chapters in, he gives the reader a unique understanding when he discusses his baseball glove. The glove not only represents Holden’s love for his younger brother it also exemplifies Allie’s individuality. It is understood that after analyzing Holden’s character he hates conflict with anything around him. He is confused by his brother’s death and therefore fears interactions with people and is hesitant to let people into the barrier her has created for himself. This is seen when he struggles to explain to Stradlater his descriptive composition assignment.
Holden failed to describe a room or house, and instead described the baseball glove. Holden gives Stradlater the composition and the conversation flows as follows, “ This is about a goddamn baseball glove.” “So what?” I said. Cold as hell. “Wuddya mean so what?” I told ya it had to be about a goddamn room or a house or something.” “You said is had to be descriptive. What the hell’s the difference if it’s about a baseball glove?” (41). This is definitely contributes to part of his culture and how he chooses to conduct his life. The glove is a part of him, and to others, a worn out, left handed baseball mitt with scribbles of poems may not mean anything, but to Holden, it means the world because that is all he has left of his brother. Holden keeps Allie alive through the baseball glove.
And although it’s just an old worn baseball glove to Statlader with no meaning, to Holden, it’s a keepsake of his younger brother, a memory that he will always keep with him. Allie’s death was definitely one of the most painful experiences of Holden’s life, which may lead to the root of his psychological breakdown in later chapters. Holden’s attachment to the baseball glove is an opposite connection to Dee’s association with the boxing gloves, which belonged to her father. The boxing gloves represent the struggle and the hardship that Dee had to overcome through her family issues. Raising her two brothers as well as taking care of her mother and fighting to get her dad back represents the battle. The novel basically denotes a fight, hence the boxing gloves. Now that her father is gone, Dee takes it upon herself to teach her two brothers to learn how to fight for themselves.
Once Dee found the boxing gloves hanging in the shed, Woodrell goes into detail about how important the punching bag was to her. “She kicked the bag. The chain rattled and she remembered how happy she always used to get hearing Dad whip that bag, rattle the chain, make the bag jump” (188). Dee certainly admired her dad’s strength to fight and will continue to protect her family. When her brothers came home she says, “Another thing you two’ll want to know, is how to fight. I can show you what Dad showed me” (189). Dee teaching her brothers how to fight is passing on her family’s strength. It is not so much as a memory of Jessup, as Holden’s situation with Allie’s glove, but more of a physical characteristic that is meaningful in it’s own way.
Although each glove has similar signs that ultimately tie them together in order grasp the past, the context in which the semiotics of the gloves are seen through the lenses of each character allow them to express their own individual culture. Peirce’s work exemplifies the two characters and their diverging cultures and values. He demonstrates that in both situations the gloves provide something that “stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity”. For Holden it represents his brother and for Dee it represents the continuous of strength and battle within her family.
“ I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is”. This quote said by Vladimir Nabokov is relevant to both characters and their situations and attachment to the gloves. Holden is attached because it is the only memory he has of his brother. And through the memory of her father and the fighting she did, Dee will put forth the strength in the future for her brothers as well as herself. The gloves of both the characters will continue to hold a part of the past for both Holden and Dee both physically and emotionally.