What is the significance of the "Little Shirley Beans" record and the fact that Holden breaks it?
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The record, "Little Shirley Beans", is symbolic of childhood and the sense of innocence of which Holden is afraid to let go. Fittingly, the song is "about a little kid that wouldn't go out of the house because two of her front teeth were out and she was ashamed to". Like Holden, the little girl in the song is afraid of the changes that accompany growing older, in her case, the loss of her baby teeth. Holden pays five dollars for the record, which is a lot of money. Symbolically, he would pay dearly to be able to avoid the reality of growing up (Chapter 16).
When the record breaks "into about fifty pieces", it represents the dissolution of Holden's dream of being able to avoid entering the world of adulthood. Holden had tried to protect his dream of childhood and innocence, keeping it carefully "in a big envelope and all", but despite his best efforts, the record still shatters. This indicates that, try as he might, Holden is going to be forced to let go of the past and face the future, leaving the security of childhood behind (Chapter 20).
The Little Shirley Beans record represents Holden's belief of the existence of innocence. When he first bought the record, he mentioned liking the voice of the singer. He loved the fact that despite being a young girl the singer on the record did not use a cutesy voice to sing. This is an act he believe is not phony, an action Holden often connects with innocence. When the record breaks, it represents the shattering of innocence. It is mentioned that Holden tried to piece it back together which represents him trying to rebuilt his innocence. In the end he just keeps a piece of it with him. This shows that despite growing, a person will always carry a little bit of their innocence/childhood with them.
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