J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” is about a 16-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield who is going through many problems such as getting expelled from school for the fourth time, and fear of things changing. Salinger uses symbols to give us a look at Holden’s feelings and thoughts throughout the novel. There are many different symbols that are very apparent throughout the novel. Some of the symbols described in this novel are Holden’s red hunting cap, the museum, the ducks, and Allie’s baseball glove. All of these symbols have different meanings. The cap is a symbol of Holden’s uniqueness, the museum represents a world Holden is longing to live in, the ducks represent Holden still having a youthful side to him, and the glove represents Holden’s love for his brother who passed away. These symbols represent Holden’s fear of growing up and becoming an adult.
The first symbol that is important throughout this novel is Holden’s red hunting hat. The hat is mentioned many times throughout the novel and could be taken as a symbol of Holden’s uniqueness because it is not the type of hat that someone would just wear in the city, it was a hunting hat. Holden likes to be different which is why the hat suits him the way it does, “I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning. It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks. I saw it in the window of this sports store when we got out of the subway, just after I noticed I'd lost all the goddam foils. It only cost me a buck. The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back-very corny, I'll admit, but I liked it that way. I looked good in it that way.” (Salinger 17). The hat could also be taken as a symbol of insecurity. Holden said that he bought the hat when he got out of the subway after he lost all the fencing foils and the team was mad at him. This could be Holden’s way of hiding himself from the rest of the world thus giving him a false sense of security making him feel cut off from the outside world.
The second symbol mentioned which is of importance to Holden is his younger brother Allie’s baseball mitt. Allie died of leukemia when he was 11 years old (Salinger 38). To Holden, Allie is still alive in his thoughts. “Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie, I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie” (Salinger 198). Holden keeps Allie’s memory alive by keeping his baseball mitt with him, hidden in a suitcase, as a symbol of his love for Allie. Allie’s death had a significant effect on Holden’s life. It caused most of his problems throughout the novel as he could not come to terms with his brothers passing, which resulted in him not being able to handle his emotions and function properly. The inability to stay in school and face various situations and the fear of confrontation was likely the result of...