The Catcher in the Rye Symbolism

Performance Indicators:


P.S ELA-2 Reading Analysis: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

A. Evaluate the relevant themes and synthesize how they are present in the novel in oral and written responses.
B. Interpret the implications of setting and circumstance.
C. Analyze the role of characters in the plot in oral and written responses.
D. Analyze important quotations from the text in oral and written responses.
E. Annotate the text.

P.S ELA-3 Reading Craft and Structure: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of a text.

A. Understand SOAPSTone: Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, Tone
B. Analyze the plot and/or design of the text, following shifts in time and place.

What Holden understands that he most wants to be in life is someone who is positioned on the edge of a cliff in a rye field catching children before they fall from innocence. The image is symbolic of Holden’s desire to save both himself and other children from having to grow up into an adult world he sees as “phony.” The image is even more symbolic because it is based on Holden mishearing a song based on Robert Burns (1759-1796) poem “Coming Thro the Rye,” which is about two bodies meeting in the rye for carnal pleasure. Holden’s misinterpretation underscores both his desire to shield children from the adult world and his misunderstanding about just how innocent the world of children is.

Consider the objects and colors mentioned throughout the novel.  List as many of these apparent symbols as you can organizing each under one of the thematic headings:
Transitioning from Childhood to Adulthood, Death, and Alienation.  What statements can you ascertain on your own about what J.D. Salinger intends for the reader to take from his work of fiction?

There are many sites where symbolism and motifs are discussed on-line, however, Salinger never publicly commented on the story, thus the conclusions drawn by others remain speculative.  You will only benefit if you build your own insights by recognizing the numerous symbols developed throughout the novel.