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The Concepts of Innocence and Insecurity in Catcher in the Rye

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There is certainly no denying the fact that J.D. Salinger's Catcher In The Rye is one of the most impactful books ever written for young adults. It does a very good job highlighting the struggles and pains that adolescents face. Perhaps the two most important themes that exist in the work are that of innocence and insecurity, two painfully familiar concepts that one is going to have to deal with as they enter into adulthood. Furthermore, one can see that both Holden's red hunting hat and Allie's baseball mitt are two objects that largely portray these two themes by their very nature and how they exist in the story.

To begin, one should first start with how Holden's red hunting hat serves as a symbol for his insecurity. There is nothing particularly wrong with Holden, although he does suffer from being an awkward, developing young boy who is still trying to 'find his way' in the world. Whether it is the hormones his young body is now feeling, his changing social circumstances, or his inability to cope to the educational system, it is clear that he is simply an insecure young boy. While he would never admit it, it is clear that he's suffering from the anxiety that most teenagers feel. Also, while everybody has their little coping mechanisms for dealing with negative emotions, it appears that Holden has attached himself to a peculiar little red hat that he's seemingly fallen in love with. This is clear by the fact that there are numerous situations in the book itself where he puts it on during a moment of distress.

Holden resorts to putting on his classic hunting hat in a moment of anxiety. He's just returned to his room, and even though he's all by himself, he puts the hat on once again. '... I swung the old peak way around to the back - very corny, I'll admit, but I like it that way. I looked good in it that way' (Salinger 18). Others also notice his peculiar fascination with his hunting hat. Even Stradlater, his close friend and also his slight enemy comments on it. Holden states 'He meant my hunting hat. He'd never seen it before. I was out of my breath anyway; I quit horsing around. I took off my hat and looked at it for about the ninetieth time...' (41). He has a massive fixation on this particular hat, even though it's quite likely very unfashionable and he even wears it when nobody is around. This ties into the theme of his overall insecurity, and the fact that he doesn't always feel too happy with the state of his own life. Then again, this is a relatively normal teen behavior. In fact, this is hardly the only time in the book when he shows too much value of a particular object, with Allie's baseball mitt having similar significance.

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While perhaps the most prominent theme in work is one of insecurity, there is also a theme of innocence, and maybe a grand loss of it in the book as well. Even though Holden seems to be instead in touch with his sexual urges, it seems as if he feels protective over his younger siblings, so that they do not end up like him. Allie is Holden's younger brother, who unfortunately died as a result of Leukemia. Allie's baseball mitt has poetry scribbled all over it. While Holden is slowly losing his innocence, the death of Allie represents the complete and total loss of innocence at an extremely early time in one's life. Allie's death left a massive impact on him, traumatizing him very greatly. There are various instances in the book where it is revealed just how much Allie's baseball mitt means to the young Holden.

Allie's baseball mitt is perhaps one of Holden's prized possessions. It should come as no surprise, as it is entirely reasonable for one to value the property of someone who has died an untimely death. He is somewhat sensitive in regards to who he shows it to, and who gets to know it even exists. Leading research shows that individuals who prize the possessions of a loved one after their death will often thrive better than those who attempt to ignore such things (“Loved One”). One quote that illustrates this is 'She was the only one, outside my family, that I ever showed Allie's baseball mitt to, with all the poems written on it' (110). Even though Holden's love affairs were numerous, it still shows that he sincerely trusted Jane, the girl that he allowed to see such a personal aspect of his life. Additionally, when he was required to write about mortality to assist Stradlater, he mentioned the baseball mitt for such things. He states that 'So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie's baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It was' (52). One can see that it is a massive inspiration for him even into the present day.

Understanding the things that exist in Catcher in the Rye is no easy task whatsoever. That being said, it doesn’t take much to see that this book is one of many great coming of age works that exists for young adults in the world today. It explores typical teenage themes, such as insecurity and innocence, and Salinger uses Holden's hunting hat and Allie's baseball mitt as symbols for a genuine set of circumstances that Holden was facing in his life. Also, choosing these objects as powerful literary objects that would go on to enhance the overall meaning of Catcher In The Rye.

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The Concepts of Innocence and Insecurity in Catcher in the Rye. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“The Concepts of Innocence and Insecurity in Catcher in the Rye.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
The Concepts of Innocence and Insecurity in Catcher in the Rye. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2023].
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