Symbolism in Catcher in the Rye

1 January 2017

In the book The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield seems like a teenager who is always critical, lonely and depressed. He seems to not understand that getting older is a part of life. The author of The Catcher in the Rye, J. D Salinger, uses a lot of symbolism to express this. A symbol is a word or object that stands for another word or object. The person writing will either make it clear to you or they might make you think. Salinger uses symbols such as the poem “Comin’ Thro the Rye”, the graffiti on the school walls, and taking a ride on the carousel.

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In Chapter 22, Holden goes to visit Phoebe and she asks what he wants to do with his life. He replies by asking if she knew a song that went “if a body, catch a body comin’ through the rye. ” She confirms that she does and Holden says, “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy. ” He pictures himself positioned at the edge of a cliff to keep the children from falling off.

This fall represents adulthood, and Holden wants to keep the children innocent as long as he possibly can. To Holden all adults are “phony”. “Phony” is probably the most commonly used word throughout The Catcher in the Rye, and he would like to keep the children away from that. Later in the book, Holden wrote Phoebe a note to meet him at the Museum of art. As he was walking to the principal’s office, he suddenly noticed that somebody had written “F you” on the wall. It drove him insane.

It says, “I thought of how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them –all cockeyed, naturally — what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. ” He feels this way because, again, he would like to keep the children innocent. He tries to rub it off the wall, but finds that it is scratched in. Holden then realizes that the children are not as innocent as he would like to believe.

Toward the end of the book, in chapter 25, Phoebe tells Holden that she would like to take a ride on the carousel. On the carousel there is a gold ring. Phoebe and the other kids were reaching toward the gold ring and Holden was afraid that she could fall off. However, he does realize that there really is nothing he can do. Becoming an adult is just a part of life and this realization comes to him when Salinger writes, “The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them.

What this means is that when you take that plunge into adulthood, just get back up on your feet again. The Catcher in the Rye is a book based on what a real teen could be feeling or going through. It is filled with things to symbolize these things. The poem, the graffiti, and the carousel are all great examples. Kids will not stay innocent and are not as innocent as they seem sometimes, but everyone becomes an adult. As Holden realizes at the end of the book, getting older is just a part of life. When you fall, you just have to stand up again and dust yourself off.

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