Symbolism In J. D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye

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The struggle of adolescence combined with the themes of loss and isolation through one Holden Caulfield. This coming of age story of Holden in J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is a famous all american masterpiece. Within the book, Salinger’s is known for his frequent and detailed use of symbolism from Holden’s hat representing his shield and childlike vulnerability to the ducks in Central Park as a reflection of his subconscious mind trying to get help. One famous symbolism is the small detail of Holden’s right hand, specifically his inability to make a fist gives a window into his character and reflects his current state of mind and his path to adulthood.
Psychologically analysing Holden, his fist is an important symbolic indicator of
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On account of that injury I told you about” (56 Salinger). Lacking any indication of his first hindering him in the novel, Holden uses his fist as an injury holding him back as an excuse. This is seen in the casual way he states “on the account of that injury” and the word “but”. Holden does reference a time when he had let out his grief by destroying his garage windows, however Holden rarely mentions any recurring pain or problems of using his hand in daily life. This suggests that Holden could be relying on his hand being injured as an excuse to cover for himself. There have been many in history extending to today who have accomplished much with an injury or disability. Relying on this excuse as a crutch can be seen as Holden’s inability to recognize his own failings. This is seen time and time again in his misinterpretation of his cool self image, his lack of social skills, and his overconfidence in fighting. This inability to see his own failings also shows Holden’s state of mind as he himself is failing in life in a way. Falling is the way Mr. Antolini describes how Holden is progressing, Holden is in a place where his mind is so accustomed to failing he can no longer sense the hole he has dug himself…show more content…
Coming of age, Holden’s fist is representative of his current path to adulthood. Just as his fist has been warped by grief and his actions after Allie 's death, so too is the path he treads to adulthood. His hand is symbolic of the baggage he carries as he is trying to progress through adulthood. Overall, The Catcher in the Rye is Holden’s story of turmoil and his struggle through adolescence. While Holden is currently a hormone filled adolescence, but he lacks many of the basic social and intellectual skills that an adolescence possesses. This is seen in his interactions with society, his experiences with sex, and his failing grades in school. With this in mind Holden’s fist becomes a fascinating synecdoche as it can be seen as an extension of his body. In Holden’s self reflection of breaking the windows of his garage Salinger writes, “My hand still hurts me once in a while when it rains and all, and I can 't make a real fist any more-- not a tight one, I mean--but outside of that I don 't care much” (50). Although his body is growing in this period of puberty, his injury still persists. Holden says that his hand “still hurts” himself “once in a while”, but it still lingers. This is representative of how Holden is currently still carrying his grief of Allie’s death, manifesting itself in his lack of motivation in school while he is maturing to become an adult. This is important considering Holden is currently at an area where he is neither an adult nor child, but
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