Symbolism in "The Catcher in the Rye"

Essay by niftypaintbrushHigh School, 11th grade April 2004

download word file, 7 pages 4.0 2 reviews

Downloaded 182 times

"The Catcher In The Rye" encompasses very sophisticated meanings and symbols. J.D Salinger has created a symbolic environment for the novel, where everything and everyone represents a particular thing or idea. Salinger incorporates symbolism as an intricate tool for conveying his story to the reader. In my essay I will highlight and explain various important symbols in the novel.

One of the most telling symbols in the novel is the name symbolism; Holden Caulfield is not just a name. Because of his perspective of life where everyone is a "phony," the name Holden seems to show that he is 'holden' back, not allowing himself to be absorbed into the ugly, vicious adult world. His last name, Caulfield, has a lot to do with the theme of childhood and innocence expressed throughout the novel. A "caul" is part of a membrane around the head when a child is born.

This symbolizes comfort and protection for children. "Field" represents the rye field where Holden wants to become the "Catcher In The Rye" who saves children form falling and entering the hypocritical and "phoney" world of adulthood. This symbol is first used in chapter 16 when Holden sings "Comin' through the rye" as he is walking down the street, and is then used in chapter 22 when Phoebe asks him what he wants to do with his life, he replies with his image, from the song. Holden imagines a field of rye perched high on a cliff, full of children playing. He says he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by "catching" them if they were falling.

"... I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to...