The Catcher in the Rye: The Symbolism Behind the Book The Catcher in the Rye is written by J.D.
Salinger. This book in particular is closely based on the life of Salinger. The symbols in this book are very highly developed and have a lot to do with the development of Holden’s character and also explain how he feels about certain things in his life. The three most important symbols in this book are ducks in the pond in Central Park, the speech and discussion about digression at Mr.
Antolini’s house, and, of course, the symbolism behind the title, the catcher in the rye. The following will be an in-depth analysis of the symbolism behind the book, the Catcher in the Rye. The first symbolic event I would like to discuss is the conversation that Holden has with his old English teacher, Mr. Antolini.
This certain event happens in chapter 24. They started talking about the classes that Holden failed. One in particular was the class called Oral Expression. Holden told Antolini about how much he hated that class. He said he hated it so much because of something called ‘digression.
’ He told Antolini that the oral expression was a class where you would get up in front of the class and make a speech on a selected topic. The point was to not go off topic. Every time someone did off topic, the whole class was supposed to yell ‘digression!’ at them. Holden was one of the guys who often got yelled digression to. He got so frustrated that he would just give up.
Holden explains to Mr. Antolini about a classmate named Richard Kinsella. He also went off topic a lot, but Holden said it was better when he did go off topic because it was always more interesting. He says “ ‘ I mean it’s dirty to keep yelling ‘Digression!’ at him when he’s all nice and excited…’ ”This quote is very significant to the understanding of Holden. When he says it is dirty to yell digression at someone when they are getting excited about something, he is really relating it to his personal life. He probably thinks it is rude for people to be judging him and to be telling him what to do when his life goes off track a little bit. This digression conversation proves how messed up Holden’s life really is.
Right now, Holden is jumping from prep school to prep school and really keeps changing what he’s doing with his life. He is never able to finish what he starts. Up until now, he has thought that it is ok for him to do this. Before Antolini made him second-guess himself, Holden thought that it was ok to go off track once in a while.
There are always special circumstances that make it ok for people to go off track and he thinks that he is one of those people. Nobody really understands that he needs to digress once in a while. Mr. Antolini, however, doesn’t agree with this.
He thinks that if a person started on one topic, he should stay with it. “ ‘ One short, faintly stuffy, pedagogical question. Don’t you think there’s a time and a place for everything? Don’t you think if someone starts out to tell you about his father’s farm, he should stick to his guns, then get around to telling you about his uncle’s brace? Or if his uncle’s brace is such a provocative subject, shouldn’t he have selected it in the first place as his subject-not the farm?’ ” This criticism, I think, hits Holden hard because it is almost as if Mr. Antolini is saying that Holden’s way of life is wrong and when he starts something he should finish it. This discussion represents something else. It represents the fact that Holden will go nowhere if he keeps going off topic and the fact that he failed the course, perhaps, means that if he doesn’t turn his life around, he will fail in life too.
Another important symbol in the Catcher in the Rye is about the ducks in the pond in Central Park. Holden poses the question about what happens to the ducks in Central Park. This conversation with the cabbie, Horwitz, begins on page 81. It reads, “ ‘Hey, Horwitz,’ I said. ‘You ever pass by the lagoon in CentralPark? Down by Central Park South?’‘The what?’‘The lagoon. That little lake, like, there.
Where the ducks are. Youknow.’‘Yeah, what about it?’‘Well you know the ducks that swim around in it? In thespringtime and all? Do you happen to know where they go in thewintertime, by any chance?’ ” First of all, this question is kind of a silly question for a teenager of 16 years to ask. Most people figure out that bird fly south.