The Catcher in the Rye: Symbols

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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I Remember…

School makes me think of my friends which makes my think about laughing which makes me think about my birthday which makes me think of parties which make me think of music which makes me think of eating which makes me think of Wingstop which makes me think about sleeping which makes me think about dreams.

Just The Way I Liked It

Holden wears his hat when he wants to be himself. When he wears it, he feels more confident.

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It’s a bright red hunting hat that match both Allie and Phoebe’s red hair. He bought the hat when he went to New York with his school’s fencing team. That trip was very memorable for him because he was the one who was in charge of all the fencing equipment, but Holden had left it all on the subway. When he’s feeling bold, he wears the red hunting hat backwards. He feels he can act however he wants when he has it on, but he hides it when he has to seem like an adult like in bars or hotel lobbies. He is embarrassed about his childish side. He wants to look like an adult to other adults. He thinks the hat makes him look childish.

Jane’s Kings

The way Jane lines up her kings in the back row while playing checkers is a representation of her innocence. When Holden finds out Stradlater had a date with her, he worried for Jane’s innocence. He knew that Stradlater had a reputation of being with a lot of girls. Holden still saw Jane as his innocent childhood friend and he felt the need to protect her. Before Stradlater left for his date with Jane, Holden had asked him to ask Jane if she still kept her kings in the back row. It was Holden’s way of asking if Jane was still innocent. When Stradlater came back, Holden was curious to know Jane’s answer, but Stradlater never asked her. Holden became angry and assumed Stradlater treated Jane like all the other girls he had been with. Holden assumed Stradlater didn’t respect her and didn’t treat the way Holden thinks she deserves. He still saw Jane as his childhood friend and wants to protect her from adulthood.


Holden says he hated how people had cheap suitcases. When he helped two nuns with inexpensive suitcases, he was reminded of his roommate at Elkton Hills, Dick Slagle. Dick would hide his cheap suitcases under the bed while Holden left his expensive suitcases in sight of others. He assumed Dick didn’t want others to see he had cheap suitcases. So to relieve his roommate, Holden put his suitcases under the bed as well. Later on, Holden noticed them placed back on the rack, in sight of others. Dick wanted people who saw Holden’s expensive suitcases to think they were his own. Holden’s point of the story is people who can’t afford expensive things or don’t belong to a high social class face prejudices. Dick felt others defined him by how expensive his suitcases were. People have prejudices towards others who can’t afford the best quality, so those people become ashamed for something they do not have control of. Holden said it depressed him to see Dick have cheap suitcases so much that he wanted to throw his own suitcases out or even trade suitcases with Dick.

The Museum

Holden feels comfort and happiness in the museum because all the displays stay the same. He say whenever he goes back to visit, he finds the displays the exact same way he last saw it. The only thing that changes is the person visiting. The significance the museum has to Holden is that no matter what happens in the outside world, all the displays will remain untouched. He feels comfort in walking through and finding the Indian war canoe exactly the same. It was still as long as three Cadillacs, still had twenty Indians inside, and one still had the mask on that creeped him out. There are an infinite amount of events that can happen to a person, but going to a place where things remain the same makes Holden feel safe. A place where I feel safe and happy is when I’m home alone. It’s a rare occasion to find myself home alone because there is always other people present. Whether it be my family or people that come over, my house is always a loud and hectic place. When I’m home alone, I enjoy the silence it brings. The best feeling is when I wake up in my room, on my own, to nothing but the sun on my face and a silent, empty house.

Allie’s Funeral

Allie is Holden’s little brother who died of leukemia when he was only eleven years old. Holden did not attend Allie’s funeral because he was in the hospital. When Holden got the news that Allie died, he was feeling so emotional that he punched the windows out of his home’s garage. Holden and Allie were very close so Holden was devastated when he died. Once Allie died, all Holden’s problems began. I think Holden was so sad that he could not save his little brother. Allie’s death triggers Holden’s instinct to become a “hero” to innocent children who have to face adulthood. Holden promises to protect all the other children because he could not save Allie. Holden does want another child to fall by the hands of the dangerous adult world. As a result, he is stuck between protecting kids from inevitable adulthood or accepting adulthood himself.

Mr. Antolini

Mr. Antolini is the only adult Holden seemed to like. Holden called Mr. Antolini to ask if he could come over at a late hour, and he agreed. Mr. Antolini freely let Holden come over as if he had nothing to hide. That is what Holden likes about him. Mr. Antolini may have crossed the line when Holden found him patting his head. He thought about Mr. Antolini being homosexual. Holden was caught between still liking Mr. Antolini or not liking him anymore if he was actually homosexual. Holden had stated before that he was not comfortable being around homosexual people because he was afraid he would come one too. I believe it should not matter whether a person is a homosexual or not. A person’s personality does not change based on what person they are attracted to. The idea on whether Mr. Antolini is homosexual or not should not matter.

I Am Holden Caulfield

Phoebe is Holden’s ten year-old sister. Holden says she is the most intelligent little girl he had ever seen. One of my favorite scenes in the book is at the beginning of Chapter 22, when Phoebe found out that Holden had gotten kicked out of Pencey. She was so angry towards Holden. Phoebe says their father would be so angry towards Holden when he finds out he was kicked out of school. But, Holden says his dad would not be so angry. Phoebe sees everything with a simplistic view. Holden has a childlike view. He does not see the real truth in people’s behaviors and motives. Holden sees all children as innocent and adults as evil. Even though Phoebe is younger than Holden, she thinks and acts like an adult. Holden is stuck in this phase between childhood and adulthood. It is visible in the the way he acts in school and how he interacts with people. Phoebe is aware of the fact that he does not take things as seriously as he should. Phoebe is my favorite character because she has a real view on things. Her view and ideas and can be trusted unlike Holden’s views.

A Terrible Fall

When Mr. Antolini tells Holden he sees him “riding for some kind of terrible fall,” he foreshadows something bad will happen to Holden in the future if he does not accept the fact he is not a child anymore. Mr. Antolini is basically telling Holden, no one can save him besides himself. Holden thinks he is the hero saving children from falling from their innocent worlds into dangerous adulthood. In reality, Holden is the one who has to be saved. Mr. Antolini knows that Holden is different from the other kids. He assumed Holden had entirely given up on the thought of growing up. He was right. Holden is very fond of Mr. Antolini because he likes the way he thinks. So when he tells Holden that he thinks it’s time to finally grow up, Holden takes it into consideration. I think Holden really pays attention and takes in Mr. Antolini’s advice because in the end, he finally accepts adulthood.

On the Wall

When Holden find the words “F**k You” written on the wall he feels so angry. He thought of how some person came to the school and decided to write it on the wall. He wouldn’t want the innocent kids to see the words so he wipes it off. The “F*ck You” symbolizes the evil in the world. If it was written on a wall at my own school, I would feel embarrassed that there was a person who was immature enough to vandalize the wall. They probably did not think of the effect it would have on others. Someone would have to go out of their way to remove or cover it up. Parents of students would see it and think what kind of environment their child is in. The words “F*ck You” have a very angry connotation. If a person were to say those words, you would think they were angry towards someone or something.


At the end of the book, Holden and Phoebe go to the carousel in the zoo. Holden had appreciated how the carousel always played the same song. When paying to get on, Phoebe asks Holden if he would ride it with her. Holden said she could go ahead and he would just watch her. This is an important scene because Holden has accepted the fact that he is not a child anymore. He finally admitted that he has to grow up and think like an adult. When Holden mentions letting the kids falling while reaching for the gold rings on the carousel, it means once kids fall into adulthood, you just have to let them be. Holden now accepts the fact that once a child falls out of childhood, they don’t have to be saved. It has to be accepted. Before Phoebe gets on the carousel, she asks Holden if he was really going to come home after they were done at the zoo. I think this is her way of asking Holden if he was finally willing to face the reality. He would have go home to admit to his parents that he was kicked out of Pencey because of his lack of effort. He agreed to go home with her.


A symbol is something that represents something else. Some symbols in the novel include Holden’s Red Hunting hat which represents his true self, the Shirley Bean record Holden buys for Phoebe which represents a child-like innocence. The Museum of Natural History represents a world that Holden wishes he could live in. He is afraid of change, but the museum remains the same every time he returns. He visits the museum to be reminded of what being a kid felt like again. His life could be so hectic, but visiting the museum brought him feelings of familiarity and memories. When Holden walks throughout the museum, he is reminded of when he would go on field trips almost every Saturday. He likes to be reminded of his childhood because there was he believed no kid could be a phony person. The carousel is a symbol for a never-ending cycle Holden wishes to stay in to remain young forever. Holden had finally accepted that adulthood was inevitable when he told Phoebe he would just watch her ride the carousel.

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The Catcher in the Rye: Symbols. (2021, Mar 25). Retrieved from