Andrea Persichetti Persichetti 1
Wednesday April 9, 2014
The novel, “Catcher in the Rye”, contains symbols and metaphors that help define the life of a troubled soul. The novel is not so much about the plot itself as much as it is about the dreams and fears of narrator Holden Caulfield has of growing up. In this sense, the novel is a coming of age. No symbol from the novel captures Holden’s feelings better then the career of being “the catcher in the rye”. Holden’s misinterpretation of the poem is both strange and very revealing of his character. His desire to delay maturity, by catching children before they fall off the “cliff” speaks to his character and the way he views the adult world as phony.
The first time Holden speaks to us about the rye field and the cliff, he refers to a child coming from church. Walking with his parents (who don’t seem to be paying attention) the child is walking on the street rather then the sidewalk, singing a poem, a rather immature thing to do. Holden admires the child. Holden speaks with positive expression towards the child and does not bother to tell his parents of the otherwise dangerous situation. Holden can see that the child is not phony. The child is enjoying himself and humming the poem t bnmhat Holden thinks is “Body catch a body coming through the Rye”. “The Kid was swell. He was walking in the street, instead of on the sidewalk.” [Salinger, 150] Holden makes a connection here between the child’s life and adulthood. The differences between them he illustrated with the street curb. The child would rather be off the street, breaking the ‘rules’ of the adults in his life. The child knows he has the security of his parents if he needs it but is happy doing his own thing. While the adults are on the curb, obeying the rules and as Holden would put it “being phony”. Holden mentions the street curbs later in the novel, when he explains as he crosses the street he doesn’t think he will make it to the next side. This could be his way of explaining his falling-off the cliff.
“Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought that I’d just go down, down, down…” [Salinger, 256]
Most importantly, Holden thinks (or at least hears) the lyrics to the poem the child is singing incorrectly. Holden mistakes the verb “meet” for “catch” in the poem. This mistake outlines quite a few of Holden’s character traits, including his selective hearing, which we see again in many conversations including with Mr. Antolini. The poem refers to people meeting each other in the rye where they would be able to do things away from public. When Holden changes the word to “catch” it changes the poem from an adult subject to a childish one. The change creates an opposite meaning of the word; it is possible Holden does this intentionally. Holden cannot help but ...