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Symbolism in Catcher in the Rye

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Symbolism in Catcher in the RyeAs a quintessential piece of American literature, Catcher in the Rye has been studied time and time again, looking at themes, setting, characterization, and, most importantly, symbolism. Throughout this novel, there are numerous symbols used by the author, J.D. Salinger, to provide a greater sense of depth and understanding to the story. The most visually-striking symbol throughout the course of then novel is Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat.

  • The hat symbolizes several things for Holden, not the least of which are his uniqueness, his individuality, and his desire to consistently go against the norm of what society expects from him.
  • Holden often does not wear the hat if he is going to be around people he knows, as he does not want to isolate himself from them. This, in turn, comes to symbolize his struggle with his desire for isolation and his need for companionship.

A less-obvious symbol in the novel can be found in the ducks that live in the Central Park lagoon. Holden is enamored with these animals, always trying to understand where they go for the winter and why they travel so far. The ducks symbolize his youthful demeanor, despite countless facets of his character demonstrating the opposite at various points in the novel. While one might think that Holden is bitter, jaded, and overly cynical for his age, his fascination with the ducks and his curiosity toward their natural habits represents the fact that he is still a young boy at heart, despite what his other behaviors might tell. This novel is laden with symbols of various types, but the two aforementioned ones represent Salinger’s ability to use overt representations of a character’s nature as well as subtle glimpses into their personalities all within the same pages.

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