Symbolism Of Holden Essay, Research Paper
Symbolism of Holden Caulfield
In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses many symbols to describe or characterize Holden Caulfield. For example, Holden uses the word ?phony? many times to describe other people, when in reality he himself is a phony. Another symbol that is used throughout the novel to characterize Holden is the hunting hat he had just purchased in New York City. The hat represents Holden?s awkwardness; it does not fit in with the environment, nor does he. Throughout the novel, J.D. Salinger uses symbols to characterize Holden in a very unique way, and to get a better perception of the world in which he lives in.
The root of Holden?s problem is that he is desperate to find a missing link. Holden is desperately trying to escape avoid becoming a phony. He sees all these phonies around him; at the schools he goes to, at the theaters, people he doesn?t even know,in the people he knows and people he reads about. For example, when Holden is at the train station waiting for the train to arrive he comments on his situation:
?..If I?m on a train at night, I can usually even read one of those dumb stories in a magazine without puking. You know. One of those stories with a lot of phony, lean-jawed guys named David in it, and a lot of of phony girls named Linda or Marcia, that are always lighting all the goddamn David?s pipes for them…? (pg. 58)
He figures the only way he is going to escape from becoming like that is to defy the rules and be as opposite from a phony as possible. At the same time, he has trouble being true to himself because he gets very lonely in the process. He keeps coming back to these phonies that he hates just because he needs some companionship. He cannot find the happy medium between phony and genuine
Another plight that Holden is facing is that no one understands the problems he is experiencing. He has a way of putting up this front and making is seem as though everything is okay. One of the reasons why Holden took the time to call Mrs. Marrow or talk to the girls at the bar is because he is missing something in his life. For example, from the essay ?The Structure of The Catcher in the Rye? by Brian Way, ?Holden?s excitement (from just arriving in New York City) is the excitement of the fantasist: he is embarking on a dream which is both universally adolescent, and built into a contemporary American mass-culture…? This is one of the reasons why he does so poorly in school, without even caring. When Holden talks with these people, he is trying to find or to satisfy the gap in his life. The problem is that he is lonely. Therefore, he is acting phony a lot of the time. He is seeking friendship and companionship or some connection with Ms. Marrow, the girls at the bar, or even the nuns. He wants out of his current life, and he feels he can do that by acting the way he does, and continues saying the things he says. He himself is a phony a lot of the time. He?s always pretending to be someone he?s not; therefore a phony.
The hunting hat is a symbol of Holden’s awkwardness. He is an original guy who doesn?t really seem to fit in anywhere. The hat is the same way, he is in the city yet it is a hat for the country. When Holden first brought back the the hat to his dormitory, Ackley was in his room, and he decided to horse around a little bit so he didn?t get bored. He pulled the peak of his hunting hat around to the front, then pulled it way down over his eyes, so he couldn?t see a thing. Then he exclaimed to Ackley, ?I think I’m going blind…Mother darling, everything?s getting so dark in here.? He may be trying to escape from himself, and find a new or better life. He wears the tip of his hunting hat going the opposite direction, just like he is a little off center.
Holden leads a very unique life. He does not really stand in one place. He claims that everyone is phony, everyone but him. Although, all throughout the novel, he reveals himself to be a phony he genuinely cares about certain people in his life. However, he pushes away all his surroundings, and hides himself. The hunting hat helps bury himself so he?s all by himself, and no one is there for him. He leads an artificial life that gets him nowhere but depressed and confused.