Gabrielle Hoffman The Catcher in the Rye Symbolism Many teenagers around the age of Holden Caulfield, main character from The Catcher in the Rye, get worried and scared of growing up. Many children struggle with not wanting to grow up and the painfulness of it. J. D Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, uses symbolism to create a theme. He uses the symbol of the catcher in the rye to develop the themes of the innocence of children and the phoniness of adulthood. The catcher in the rye first comes up when Holden hears the little boy singing the song.
Then again when Phoebe asks him what he plans to do when he gets older in life. Holden truly hates phony things and he hopes to keep all children innocent and not influenced by growing up. Holden’s fear of growing up into an adult starts when he realizes that he is getting older and people around him are changing into “phonies” as he calls it. Holden believes that when growing up children lose their innocence and become phony adults. The only person Holden really connects with throughout the book is his little sister Phoebe.
Holden still thinks that she has her innocence and she has been uninfluenced by the phony adult world. One day when Holden is walking down the road he hears a little boy singing a song. A song he soon finds out later is called “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” (Chap. 16). Holden really begins to like that song and decides to go buy Phoebe the record of it so she can listen to it too. Holden has his own unique perspective of this song as well. His perspective is himself being the catcher in the rye. Holden’s idea of phoniness versus innocence really influences the way he views the world.
Almost everything he says about adults has to do with them not being up to his standards or them being phony. Also, children are and always will be the symbol of innocence. Holden doesn’t connect with adults or even people his age for the simple fact that they have grown up to be what he says are “phonies”. Holden doesn’t connect with adults and people his age also because he is immature and they have grown into a different maturity level then Holden. He is afraid to grow up into one of the people he states as phony. When Holden and Phoebe finally see each other in New
York for the first time in a long time she asks him “What do you want to do in life? ” (Chap 22), he answers with the catcher in the rye. He explains his whole theory in becoming the marvelous heroic catcher in the rye, which plays off the song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye. ” He explains that all of the innocent abandoned children come to live on the rye and that on the rye there is cliff. Holden said he would act as the person who catches the children if the accidentally fall of the cliff. He would catch them to make sure they don’t get hurt.
The cliff symbolizes the journey of growing up and becoming phony. He catching them symbolizes him wanting them to stay innocent and uninfluenced by adults for the rest of their lives. Holden feels abandoned and just depressed throughout the book hence the abandoned children wander out to this rye. All in all, the symbol of the catcher in the rye was a major part of the development of the themes of the innocence of children and the phoniness of adults. Holden, being afraid to grow up, has struggled throughout his life with many issues regarding Phoniness, Abandonment, Depression, and Loneliness.