Catcher in the Rye – Symbolic References
1- Standing on top of Thomsen hill (chapter 1 )
P- Holden is first shown as an outsider, as he is not with the crowd at the football game,
looking down on them.
E- “ I was standing way the hell up on Thomsen Hill.”
E- It is symbolic to the fact that he doesn’t want to fit in as he thinks he is superior to everyone
else. There is a hint of arrogance that he’s above everyone else.
- Something to back up that he doesn’t fit in -
2- The red hunting hat (chapter 3)
P- Holden is seen as an individual.
E- “ The way I wore, I swung the old peak way round to the back – very corny.”
E- The hat shows his individuality as the hat is a bold red colour and he chooses to wear the
peak round at the back which shows he doesn’t want to be conventional.
3- Allie’s baseball mitt
P- The baseball mitt shows he is not over Allie’s death.
E- “ So what I did, I wrote about Allie’s baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really
E- Symbolic as Holden dwells on the past and is not over his brother’s death. He obviously
has some unresolved feelings , which he doesn’t show much of, on his brother’s death.
4. the ducks in Central Park
P – Other adults fail to understand Holden’s interest in the ducks:
E – ‘He turned around and looked at me like I was a madman’.
E – The taxi driver thinks Holden is making fun of him. Holden finds it difficult to communicate
P – the Central Park pond becomes a metaphor for the world as Holden sees it:
E – ‘Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime---?’
E – Holden is once again concerned about the vulnerable in this world and frustrated that
others are oblivious or uncaring. However Holden may be worrying unnecessarily, because
the ducks adapt to changes whereas Holden is having difficulty doing this. Holden is having
difficulties adjusting to the adult world and leaving childhood behind. This is a perennial
problem of the adolescent period.
5. The ‘Little Shirley Beans’ record
This is the recurring image of a circle.
The spinning record, like the carousel, emphasises the circular structure of the novel which
begins and ends with Holden in therapy.
P – Lonely and drunk, Holden smashes the record:
E – ‘I dropped old Phoebe’s record. It broke into about fifty pieces.’
E – Smashing the record is symbolic of the end of Holden’s childhood. He has now got to
start to come to terms with adulthood.
P – He cannot let go of the pieces although they are now of no use to him:
E- ‘I took the pieces out of the envelope and put them in my coat pocket’.
E – Holden can’t bear to part with them just as he can’t bear to part with his childhood. Both
are useless to him now but still Holden clings on.
P – Phoebe keeps the record pieces, the remnants of her gift:
E- ‘Gimme the pieces’, she said. ‘I’m saving them.’
E- the broken record symbolises Phoebe’s love for her brother.
6. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’
P – The element of sexual attraction is removed from the lyrics as the child and Holden mis-
speak the words of Robert Burns’ song:
E- ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’
E- ‘catch a body’ removes the sexual element which links to Holden’s resistance to growing
P- The symbol of ‘catching’ children and preventing them from falling over the cliff is Holden’s
desire to prevent children from growing up:
E- ‘ I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff.’
E – Holden’s dream of preventing children from growing up is unrealistic but it symbolises his
resistance to growing up.
P- Holden himself ‘falls’ on a number of occasions in the course of the novel eg. down the
steps at Pencey as he leaves; into the lake in Central Park; ‘heading for a fall’ that Mr.
Antolini warns Holden of, which is a metaphor for Holden’s experience which we learn of from
Holden, his breakdown.