Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Significance of the Title 'The Catcher in the Rye' Analysis

Hey guys! Just wanted to show you guys the first draft of the essay I wrote for my English class =) I ended up getting an A =)


Oral Exposé: Significance of ‘Catcher in the Rye’

In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, a myriad of themes and symbols are explored throughout the novel. One significant symbol is the title itself, The Catcher in the Rye. Childlike innocence is a concept often questioned and argued by many. It is the mindset of the heart wherein it is untainted and untouched by pride and selfishness. Teenagers, such like Holden, are at a liminal age in life. He is in the threshold between childhood and adulthood; between the innocence embodied by children and the disillusionment accompanied by adulthood. Holden has been exposed to vast vulgarity, corruption, and impurity in society and in his experiences. Through the dark, gritty moments he faces in Catcher in the Rye, Holden finally realizes that children are often corrupted by the adults surrounding them. Holden wants to become the Catcher in the Rye, conserving and preserving childlike innocence in its purest form, and protecting children from the vices they will face in adulthood. Ultimately, The Catcher in the Rye is significant because it symbolizes Holden as the ‘Preserver of Innocence’ but at the same time, amplifies Holden’s realization that he is powerless to preserve it on his own.

Ironically, the role of a ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is selfless and caring, the complete opposite of how the audience perceives Holden in the novel. With the suddenly positive image "I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all…I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff… I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff…I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy,” contrasting the negative atmosphere throughout the novel, this contrives a sense of hope for Holden. The cliff indicates the fall from childhood into adulthood, and the rye field represents childhood, somehow also symbolizing childlike freedom and happiness. When Holden says he wants to be the ‘Catcher in the Rye’, it means that he wants to be the one to catch children before they fall into adulthood.

Although difficult to see clearly through his derisive façade of cynical seclusion, Holden signifies the ‘Catcher in the Rye’ or the ‘Preserver of Innocence’ first when the title is first mentioned, in chapter sixteen, Holden hears a little boy singing to himself. The real lyrics are “If a body meet a body, coming through the rye,” but the little boy sings “If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye,” the pronounced mistake demonstrates the boy’s innocence and untainted youth, as well as it is catalyst that triggers Holden’s desire to become a ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Notably, he is only cynical or criticizing towards people who aren’t his age. The replacement of ‘meet a body’ for ‘catch a body’ is extremely figurative because of its presence in the title itself.

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden eventually realizes that he is unable to stop the progression (or regression in Holden’s opinion) to adulthood. When Holden goes to Phoebe’s school, looking to deliver her a note, he stumbles upon a “fuck-you” written in the stairs to the point that “I thought I wanted to puke again.” And he rubs it off so the children won’t see it. But later, he finds another “fuck-you” etched on the wall with a knife, the permanence of the “fuck-you” symbolizing that he cannot protect innocence himself.

The Catcher in the Rye is an intense, powerful, introspective novel with three-dimensional characters, accentuated by the descriptive, harsh, gritty world Salinger has created. The vices and lonely atmosphere present all throughout The Catcher in the Rye is deceptive and unsettling with Holden’s skewed, biased perceptions of the world and the people surrounding him. The vivid depictions of the dark realities and concepts that Holden face are provocative; it triggers thought-provoking questions about issues that plague the real world today. Holden’s experiences as a teenager, parallels itself both to the past, and the realities faced today. As the reader journeys with Holden on his path of his downfalls and insight, it is seen that there is a deeper concept of the idea of innocence and the fall towards adulthood.


Zombie Girrrl January 19, 2011 at 10:56 PM  

Beautiful. That's exactly what I loved about this book and about Holden. The first paragraph explains why Holden is one of my favorite characters more eloquently than I ever thought to say it. Makes me want to be a Catcher in the Rye, because Holden and I share the deep desire to preserve chidren's innocence. It's too bad corruption is etched too deeply in the precepts of our society to allow kids to remain innocent for the whole of their youth. And even that's a sad statement, because who says adults can't be innocent? It's nothing but an excuse that allows us to sell ourselves short, and it's just not true. I'm 23 and I'm innocent, and that doesn't make me a child. And even if did, I'd rather be a child for my whole life than lose myself, and possibly heaven, to the world.

Anyway! Great essay! Totally worthy of an A. :)

Angelique January 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM  

My daughter is reading this right now...I am sharing what you wrote with her, thanks so much for posting!!

And I love that little pic at the bottom of the post that says I wandered through fiction to look for the truth. What is that from???

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