Catcher in the Rye: Resistance to Growing Up

The Catcher in the Rye, captures the teen life in a book. The novel remains relevant in today’s society more than ever, which derives from Salinger’s themes of loneliness and the unwillingness of growing up. In the story, Holden’s resistance of growing up is illustrated best by the symbols of the ducks and the museum. His disconnection from society and his family are best shown with his red hunting hat when he puts it on to feel safe and not alone.

Holden’s stubbornness to growing up is one of his biggest struggles in the book. Many symbols were inserted as Salinger’s way to show his conflict. Introduced in the first chapters are Holden’s curiosity for the ducks and the fishes. “The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something’ (107). As we all know, the ducks must adapt and change in order to survive in the winter. This symbolizes that Holden’s growth and change are unavoidable and becomes a major motif. Another part in the story that contributes to Holden’s struggle is the scene with Holden unable to go to the museum because it will force him to realize his change when Holden says, “the best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was… the only thing that would be different would be you” (157-158). Throughout the story, Holden’s resentment for growing up is constantly reminded to the readers.

Salinger opens up with Holden Caulfield; the main protagonist, sharing his story of how he is disconnected from his family and had a lousy childhood when he says, “what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before the had me”. From the start, Holden’s story relates to many in which he didn’t have the most loving childhood and was disconnected from his parents. A major symbol referenced throughout the book is Holden’s red hunting hat. The red hat reminds Holden of his younger brother Allie who died of leukemia and gives him a sense of comfort. As readers can see, Holden is so disconnected from society the only thing that can give him a feeling of belonging is a cheap, corny hat.

“The Catcher in the Rye’s” themes and motifs are seen throughout Holden’s live as well as many of the readers. Holden has his moments just like all of us have, whether it is him shining or hitting rock bottom. The argument for whether or not Salinger’s book resonates with today’s society should not even be a discussion; from Holden’s rough childhood to his resistance to growing up, his book can relate to almost to all of Salinger’s audience.