Comment on the use of Salinger's symbolism in The Catcher in the Rye.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A very important symbol that Salinger uses in this famous text is the Museum of Natural History. Salinger uses this symbol to establish central truths about the character of Holden. One of the interesting things about him is his self-confessed love of the mummies at the museum. All of the displays, but of course especially the mummies, represent the kind of frozen immobility that appeals to Holden. They, unlike himself, don't change, and they can be counted upon to stay the same. Note what he says about how he likes to look at the mummy exhibition:

I sort of liked it, in a way. It was so nice and peaceful.

Holden desires a world that represents frozen time, that is resistant to the forces of change, and which is immune to the chaotic changes that life forces on people. He is somebody that is bewildered by his brother's death, somebody who hates conflict and somebody who finds change very difficult to manage. As a result, the museum is somewhere that he likes.

surajverma8 | Student

Salinger uses many lucky symbols in his works to show to fulfill
the quest for happiness.  In "Soft-Broiled Sergeant" one of the
soldiers wears a pair of lucky underwear, which saves him in battle
and helps in finding the love of his life (French, J.D. Salinger 42).
The underwear gives the soldier the happiness he is looking for
(French, J.D. Salinger 45). Salinger many times uses funny lucky
symbols like this, but can be found to provide happiness for the
characters (Salzberg 121).  Another example of lucky symbols is  in
"For Esme" Salinger portrays the sun as a lucky symbol to Joseph
Carney (French, J.D. Salinger 63).  The sun is lucky to Joseph in that
it helps Joseph turn his entire life around, from the rut it had been
into a life of great prosperity (French, J.D. Salinger 66). The sun
provides inspiration for Joseph to change his life (French, J.D.
Salinger 66). 
    The characters in J.D. Salinger’s works start out in bad
situations.  Through the use of lucky symbols their life is changed to
what will make them happy. Salinger uses symbolism in his works also
to foreshadow a better life.  In "Long Debut of Louis Taggett" the
symbol of a cigarette being put out foreshadows the end of a marriage
(Galloway in Curley and Kramer 58).  The end of this marriage for
Louis Taggett, means good for his life (Galloway in Curley and Kramer
61).  Louis at the end of the story is able to
concentrate more on his job, where he meets the woman that will really
love him, and find wealth and prosperity (Galloway in Curley and
Kramer 59). This symbolism to foreshadow is one of many examples of
how Salinger uses symbolism to predict a better life (Galloway in
Curley and Kramer 61).  Salinger many times use subtle, but important
symbols to foreshadow better things (Galloway in Curley and Kramer
62).  The character, in this work, has suffered through hardships.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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