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What type of literary devices are used in The Catcher in the Rye and what makes them...

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esperanzadc | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted September 19, 2008 at 8:06 AM via web

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What type of literary devices are used in The Catcher in the Rye and what makes them effective?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 19, 2008 at 1:07 PM (Answer #1)

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The first literary device Salinger uses in "Catcher in the Rye" is allusion. Allusion is a reference to a previous literary work or historical event. In this case, the title of the book is an allusion to a Robert Burns poem and the line, "If a body meet a body comin' through the rye. " Holden changes the words to "If a body catch a body comin' though the rye. Eventually the meaning of this line is revealed as Holden's dream of being a 'catcher in the rye" who can save children from the disillusionment of growing up. This reveals one of the major themes of the novel. The technique the author uses for narrating the book is called "stream of consciousness." What we read is not a straightforward chronology of events but a retelling of the events in the order Holden's meandering mind remembers them. This allows the author to reveal how childish Holden is at times and his unwillingness to grow up even though Holden is unaware of this himself. The book is also full of symbolism.One of the main symbols is Holden's red hunting hat which symbolizes Holden's isolation from other people and his search for something, besides Phoebe, which is meaningful in his life. Ducks are a symbol for the homeless condition of Holden. They are evicted by the cold and Holden is "evicted" by the coldness of his family. All of the symbols point to the theme of an insecure young man desperately fighting maturity and the disillusionment that often comes with it.

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katemschultz | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted September 25, 2008 at 10:39 AM (Answer #2)

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A couple of other great symbols point to the theme of the difficulty of growing up, or Holden's conflicting desire to want to grow up but not to want to grow up.

Holden enjoys the Museum of Natural History. He makes his way through the park to see if Phoebe is there However, when he gets there, he doesn't go in because he's afraid something might have changed. He's not as accepting of the idea of change as he might like to think he is. It also makes his reflect on his changing nature--he muses that the museum wouldn't change, you'd change. The museum wouldn't be different, but he would be different. He also doesn't like the idea that Phoebe would be different each time she went there, in effect reflecting on her growing up. He doesn't want anyone he loves to grow up and become phony, as he feels all adults are.

The carousel at the end of the novel is a symbol of stability as well. It goes around and around, never changing, never deviating and playing the same songs. However, it's important that Phoebe, who is still a child, goes on the ride, but Holden, who's trying to grow up and accept these changes, doesn't. He watches Phoebe try to grab the golden ring in the middle, and accepts that, just like he was able to, kids need to grow up and make their own mistakes and learn from them.

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Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | TA | (Level 2) Valedictorian

Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:03 AM (Answer #3)

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There are various symbols and motifs in The Catcher in the Rye. For example: ducks, red hunting hat, blood, and death. The symbols are so effective and important because: 

Rather, the subtle structure and crucial episodes and symbols demand that the novel be evaluated as a work of literary art. Within the complex history of modern literature, Holden Caulfield is one of many rebels. This literature of protest against society often purposefully satirizes conventional values. If it offends readers, forces them to look at reality from what the critic Kenneth Burke has called a "perspective by incongruity," it does so to disturb and shock the audience to look again at the world. The Catcher in the Rye dramatizes how easily modern man, in Holden's eyes at least, accepts a vulgar environment characterized by graffiti, urban decay, fake behavior, and a culture that glorifies the trivial while remaining insensitive to human needs.


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atyourservice | Student, Grade 11 | TA | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted September 22, 2014 at 10:11 PM (Answer #4)

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There are several symbolism in the book the catcher in the rye, such as the red hunting hat, the museum of natural history, the ducks in central park, mummies, the little Shirley beans record, James castle, Phoebe’s notebook, and the carousel. These symbols are effective because they all have a deeper meaning behind them and reveal who Holden really is. They provide us an indirect characterization.

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