The Symbolic Nature Of The Catcher In The Rye - English - Essay

1051 words - 5 pages

The Catcher in the Rye
All humans are born with complete innocence but, as they grow adults influence
the way they think and act leading them to a loss of purity. Throughout​ ​J. D. Salinger's,
The Catcher in the Rye, ​the readers are shown the author's views on the importance of
childhood innocence. Holden explains to the reader that all he wants he wants to do in
life is be the Catcher in the Rye. He pictures this as monitoring kids and catching them if
they fall off a cliff while playing on a field of rye. The symbolism found in Holden's
“dream job” is one of innocence, which helps develop both Holden and Salinger’s views
on our society.
The Catcher in the rye is one of the most prominent symbols found in the novel.
It is also the most important due to the significance it gives to the novel. Holden first
learns about this symbol while walking the streets of New York hearing a boy sing
“Coming through the Rye” by Robert Burns. Holden mistakes the words in the song
thinking it goes “if a body catch a body, comin’ thro’ the rye “. Later in the novel, Phoebe
asks holden what he wants to do with his life. Holden then tells Phoebe he wants to
catch kids if they fall off while playing on a field of rye on top a cliff.
Quindamo, 2
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of
rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean
— except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to
do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're
running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from
somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the
rye and all”. (Salinger, 191)
During this quote Holden describes what his dream job would entitle. The kids represent
childhood. The field represents innocence. The fall from the cliff represents the fall from
innocence. Holden represents the attempt to shelter kids from growing up, and more
personally, represents his desire to avoid the harshness of adult life. After hearing what
Holden has to say, Phoebe is simply shocked and says “our dad is going to kill you”.
Holden cannot escape the real world and live in fantasy, Holden needs to learn how to
grow up.
Throughout the first half of the novel the term The Catcher in the Rye is not
discussed. Holden's words and actions at the beginning of the novel foreshadow
Holden’s interpretation of The Catcher in the Rye. The term is first mentioned in Chapter
16. Holden, who constantly lives in a state of depression and sadness, was on his way
to a broadway show. While walking he hears a boy singing which immediately makes
him feel better. As the boy was walking along the sidewalk with his parents, amongst all
the noise of the city streets, Holden only focuses on the boy. “He was singing that song,

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