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Symbolism in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye Essay

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Many novels cannot be fully understood and appreciated if only read for face value, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is no exception. The abundant use of symbolism in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is of such significance that it “proclaims itself in the very title of the novel” (Trowbridge par. 1). If the symbolism in this novel is studied closely, there should be no astonishment in learning that The Catcher in the Rye took approximately ten years to write and was originally twice its present length. J.D. Salinger uses copious amounts
of symbolism in his novel to accurately convey the feelings of his main character, Holden, and, in essence, to reveal information pertaining to human sentiment. Many of these symbols contain irony, multiple meanings, and varying degrees of complexity. Through the comprehension of Salinger’s unique symbolism, however, The Catcher in the Rye can be truly understood and appreciated.

The character of Holden Caulfield is a powerful symbol himself which represents people as they truly are. Holden can be related to by anyone; he is occasionally silly, irritating, thoughtless, and irresponsible. He judges others without a second thought and builds his perception of people according to the things that he deems to be “phony.” Holden Caulfield is representative of idealism. He sees the difference between what is and what ought to be and is bothered enough by this to take action. The name “Holden” can be phonetically interpreted as meaning “hold on,” but what is it that Holden is holding on to? The Catcher in the Rye is the tale, from Holden’s
perspective, of the three days following his removal from his prep school, Pencey, and the wisdom that comes during his venture.

One of the first enc...


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...nguage Quarterly 25.4 (1964): 461. Print.

Edwards, Duane. "Don't Ever Tell Anybody Anything." ELH 44.3 (1977): 554-65. JSTOR. Web. 20 Apr. 2009.

Foran, Donald. "A Doubletake on Holden Caulfield." The English Journal 57.7 (1968): 977-79. JSTOR. Web. 18 Apr. 2009.

Miller, Edwin. "In Memoriam: Allie Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye." EBSCOhost. 2000. Web. 22 Apr. 2009.

Privitera, Lisa. "Holden’s Irony in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye." Explicator 66.4 (2008): 203-06. Print.

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.

Svogun, Margaret D. "Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye." Explicator 61.2 (2003): 110. Print.

Takeuchi, Yasuhiro. "Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye." Explicator 60.3 (2002): 164. Print.

Trowbridge, Clinton W. "The Symbolic Structure of The Catcher in the Rye." EBSCOhost. 2000. Web. 17 Apr. 2009.


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