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Etymology and Symbolism of Characters' Names in Catcher in the Rye Essays

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The Etymology and Symbolism of Characters' Names in Catcher in the Rye

 
    Catcher in the Rye's pallid cover, adorned only with seven multicolored bands in its upper-left corner, is not what one would call eye-catching. Its reverse side lacks criticisms or reviews of any sort; in fact, it is bare of anything except a copyright date. Human beings are advised not to judge books by their covers, rather that they should look further than the obvious and try to apprehend the implied meaning. The world has peered past Catcher in the Rye's cover, cracked its pure, uniform shell of cardboard and discovered the novel of a decade, a story that has now made the name "Holden Caulfield" synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Within the novel, however, there are more "books" into which we can read a bit more deeply - the characters. It seems quite obvious that their personalities correspond with the root meanings of their names. Would brilliant author J.D. Salinger pick the name "Holden" for the protagonist without reason? Analysis uncovers connections between themes and mannerisms that are far too relevant to have been coincidental. Holden Caulfield, his younger sister Phoebe, and a cast of minor characters such as Ackley, James Castle, Carl Luce, Faith Cavendish, and Sally Hayes are several characters whose names display these connections.

 

As the novel opens, Holden Caulfield stands poised on a hill separating him from the rest of his school at the annual football game. He is both isolated from and above the level of his peers, watching the big game from a distance. His position is a metaphor for his views on life. The phoniness of life disgusts him, and he longs to live in a world free of the tainted hy...


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...oing so would show phony qualities Holden despises and limit the reader's understanding of what is available to them. In both reading and living, one must delve at times to see intended meaning. To achieve the greatest knowledge of The Catcher in the Rye, the reader must examine the many levels of meaning associated with the character's names.

Works Cited

Bloom, HB. Major Literary Characters: Holden Caulfield. Chelsea House Publishers. New York, 1990.

Costello, DP. The Language of the Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield. Cambridge, New York; Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Gwynn, F. The Fiction of JD Salinger. University of Pittsburg Press. 1958

Salinger, JD. The Catcher in the Rye, Little, Brown and Co. Boston, 1951.

Salzman, J. The American Novel: New Essays on the Catcher in the Rye. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

 


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