In "The Catcher in the Rye," what is the poem/song "Coming Thro the Rye" about?  

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Comin' Thro the Rye- Robert Burns

O, Jenny's a' weet, poor body,
Jenny's seldom dry;
She draigl't a' her petticoattie
Comin thro' the rye.

Comin thro the rye, poor body,
Comin thro the rye,
She draigl't a'her petticoatie,
Comin thro the rye!

Gin a body meet a body
Comin thro the rye,
Gin a body kiss a body,[r] Need a body cry?

Gin a body meet a body
Comin thro the glen,
Gin a body kiss a body,
Need the warld ken?

As with all poetic interpretation, meaning is subjective.  To interpret a poem, a reader is coming with different knowledge, understanding, morals, etc.  Not all poems are interpreted the same way.  But, to align the poem with the novel The Catcher in the Rye, here is one interpretation.

Jenny never seems to be happy (neither does Holden), because she is always wet( Holden is always unhappy and depressed). She emerges from her walks through the rye wet and unable to heal herself ("need a body cry"); Holden emerges from every trial in life blaming others for his inability to succeed. Her knowledge of the world ("warld ken") is limited, for she is always in the rye. Holden's knowledge is limited given he fails to see anything in life as it really is, he only sees it from his disjointed point-of-view.  The rye represents her own limitations- for if she is always there, she is not expanding her views or horizons.   The rye, for Holden, represents his own limited views on the world-he is too judgemental of others, while failing to be judgemental with himself.

While Holden's misinterpretation of the poem directly shows his concern for others, not himself.  He worries too much about the innocense lost in children, ignoring the fact tht he is still a child.  Holden drinks, smokes, and is overly curious about sex.  His innocence is gone.  Therefore, instead of wishing to save himself from the downward spiral he is on, he chooses to try and save those around him that he deems innocent enough to save.

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