Critical Analysis of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Symbolism

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Symbols in books tend to have many different moods that balance each other out, and most often or not are found in characters along with objects. The most significant symbols are not Characters at all in The Catcher in The Rye. The most impactful Symbols in the story are The ducks, Holden’s hunting hat, and death itself. The text shows these objects and symbols played countless times as they have a huge impact on the text itself.

Holden is seen talking to the ducks on many occasions and even trying to find them in many instances. Holden is first seen mentioning the ducks in chapter nine when he says, “You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance” (Salinger 67)? This is the first instance that Holden talks about the ducks and he is super excited. He asks the same question multiple times to his cab driver as he really wants to know. Later in chapter twelve Holden has another conversation with a cab driver where he asks the same questions. He gets into more detail, and asks “If they go south or something.” He is super passionate about the ducks as he brings them up countless times. Holden cares a lot for the ducks and even worries about them. Holdens biggest interaction with the ducks is in chapter twenty when he goes into Central Park and actually goes up to the frozen lake. He almost falls in at times and gets super upset over the fact that there aren't any ducks in the pond. Moments after looking for the ducks he sits down on a bench in the park and thinks about his brothers' death. Holden thinks about all the “jerks” that went to Ally's funeral. The ducks make him think about Allie's death and overall life in general. Holden can relate to the ducks in many ways. Ducks (when winter comes) leave, just to come back in the spring. Ducks leave because winter is tough for them and they can’t survive. When times get tough for Holden, and he sees his winter coming, he leaves.

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Holden loves ducks a lot and shows a lot of passion for them but he also shows a lot of passion for his hunting hat. He is seen cursing about the hat in chapter twenty, and it's obvious he loves the hat a lot. He puts it on in many cases like in chapter seven when he leaves Pencey he says, “I was sort of crying. I don't know why. I put my red hunting hat on” (Salinger 59). He doesn’t seem to show everybody the hat as he takes it off in public locations, like the hotel. His hat is also seen helping him through tough times as it almost hypes him up after being beaten up by Stradler. Holden waits for Stradler to leave the room before he gets up. He is obviously embarrassed by the hat to some compassitty. Holden later looks at his face with all the blood, and the hat on and makes himself feel strong and even though. Holden goes to the hat when he is most vulnerable. He uses it to show emotion and also to be happy with himself. The hat reflects himself in many ways. He doesn’t like to show off his personality. He acts super rich all time when in cabs but doesn’t show his true self. The same goes for the hat when he doesn’t wear it in public that often.

Holden hat touches on the dark times and brings up a lot of sad moments, but death itself is a huge symbol in the text as it describes Holden's character and how death has impacted his life as a whole. Holden at the end of the story is seen in some kind of mental hospital for some reason. The fact is that he isn’t normal to the rest of the world and can’t function in society. Death seemed to affect him in one huge way and that is in the death of his brother Allie Caulfield. When Holden tells the reader about the night Allie died he says “I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken” (Salinger 44). Holden cared about him so much. He was only thirteen at the time and even a couple of years later he still hasn’t gotten over him entirely. Holden says that his mother is the one that hasn’t gotten over but he clearly hasn’t either. Holden even “talks” to his dead brother in chapter twenty-five. Holden has experienced an incredible death through his own brother and it has ruined him as a result. Death is seen once again when Holden is attending Pencey. A boy named James Castle is seen jumping out a window and killing himself. Holden saw the whole thing and the boy was even wearing his shirt. Death comes up in the text and sticks with Holden through his good and bad times.

The Symbols in the book are played all over the text and have a huge impact on the Protagonist Holden. The ducks, Holden’s hunting hat, and death itself are the biggest symbols across all twenty-six chapters. Though many stories and books use people as symbols of hope, evil, faith, and many more. The Catcher in the Rye does things differently and plays it off very well.

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Critical Analysis of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Symbolism. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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