Salinger's Symbolism

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Salinger’s Symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye
There are many symbols within J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye that have received a lot of critical attention since its publication in 1951; however, different interpretations of such symbols continue to be disputed by students and scholars all over the world. Salinger incorporates many symbolic events throughout the book that can be understood in a variety of ways. While there is some disagreement over the exact meaning of the Salinger’s work, it is clear that the symbols in The Catcher in the Rye are used to represent the main character, Holden Caulfield’s, struggles with growing up. In the beginning of the story, symbols are used to represent Holden’s rejection of maturing and his attempt
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Because of Holden’s reluctance to fit into society, Holden wears a red hunting cap that symbolizes his difference from the people around him. This hunting cap is a symbol in multiple ways. Instead of describing the hat as a deer hunting hat, Holden calls it his “people shooting hat”. Even though Holden would not physically harm other people, the fact that he jokes about shooting people shows how deep his hatred is of the human beings around him. The reason he hates other people so much is because he views them phonies. Holden does not want to be included in a group of such people, so he wears the hat as a way to separate himself from them. This proves that not only does Holden know that he is different than other members of society, but he embraces his differences by blatantly showing them through the bright, red hunting cap he wears. The hat can also be seen as a symbol for Holden’s morals being different from the rest of society. In Eberhard Alsen’s article “The Catcher in the Rye”, Alsen concludes, “He likes to draw attention to the incongruous hat by wearing it with the visor turned backward. By turning the visor backward Holden suggests that his values are the reverse of what everybody else's are.” Because Holden believes that pop culture’s morals are much lower than his own, he often isolates…show more content…
The first step Holden takes towards entering adulthood is he develops an acceptance that he himself is going to grow up one day. To show that Holden is envisioning himself growing up, Salinger uses the symbol of Carl Luce as a person that Holden looks up to and aspires to be when he grows up. Clinton Trowbridge, author of the article “The Symbolic Structure in The Catcher in the Rye”, provides further analysis of the character of Carl Luce. He writes, “In many ways Carl Luce represents the ideal of the man-about-town that Holden still dimly wants to become. He is several years older than Holden and has all the appearances of the suave sophisticate [...] and seems to Holden to be coolly in control of his life.”
Additionally, Holden’s decision to not go out West represents his maturity because it illustrates that Holden is not running away from his problems, instead he is facing them like an adult. Trowbridge adds, “This vision of himself, as well as his sudden realization of the extent to which he has endangered the very goodness and innocence that he most wanted to protect, so horrifies him that he immediately abandons his plan to go West, tells her he is going home instead, and carefully and touchingly tries to lead her back to
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