Explain how the title Catcher in the Rye relates to the specific events of the novel.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of Catcher in the Rye establishes Holden Caulfield's desires and wishes, as well as his insecurities.  The title relates to a poignant image and theme prevelant in the novel.  The enotes Study Guide on the novel says the following:

Despite his tough exterior, Holden consistently shows a caring heart. He asks Ackley, an annoying fellow student, to join him and another friend at the movies simply because he knows Ackley has no friends. He regrets hasty judgments he has made, specifically in believing that his favorite teacher, Mr. Antolini, was making homosexual advances to him, when in actuality Antolini was probably just expressing affection for a soul that was hurting. When Phoebe tries to pin him down in naming his goals in life, he creates an entirely unrealistic job of keeping playing children from falling over the edge of a cliff.

The children that Holden envisions saving are symbolic of his desire to protect the innocence of childhood. Before he has learned to recognize the phoniness in the adult world that he is rapidly approaching, before the tragedy of the death of his little brother, before his own grief over Allie’s death, Holden wishes a return to the innocent times of youth. His vision is not to save actual children, but to save that carefree and pure belief in the goodness of life.

Holden wishes for no more than to stand guard at the edge of a field of rye and make sure no children fall off the edge of the cliff.  This is a reduction of experience on Holden's part.  This job would eliminate ambiguities.  It would eliminate authority figures and phonies and difficult decisions and appearances, etc.  He could lead his life simply saving others.  It is peace, to Holden.  It is rest.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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