In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, is there any connection between the character's name, Holden Caulfield, and the title of the book?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a general rule, authors attach a significance to the title of their works as well as to their characters' names. It seems reasonable, therefore, to find connections between the first and last names of the main character and the title of J.D. Salinger's novel.

     Of course, much has been written about the title which is Holden Caulfield's misinterpretation of Robert Burns's poem, "Comin Thro the Rye." In Chapter 22, Holden tells his little sister that he fantasizes about being a "catcher in the rye," rescuing children from falling off a cliff, a cliff that figuratively represents adulthood.
     Holden finds the world of adults "phony" and hypocritical. His fantasy about holding (Holden=Holdin') back the children from the cliff symbolizes his desire to keep children innocent. His ability to do this would be an extraordinary power, so he would have to be a special person. Also, just as there is folklore associated with many of Robert Burns's poems, such as "Comin Thro the Rye," there is folklore that associates good luck with babies who are born with cauls, which are membrane formed from amniotic tissue that covers the head at birth. In medieval times, those born with a caul were considered special people who were destined for greatness. So, if Holden were to hold children back from losing their innocence, he would, indeed, be great. Later European traditions connected caul birth with the ability to defend the harvest; hence the connection to the last part of Holden's name: -field.
     An analysis of the title with the name of the main character connects him as the "catcher-in-the-rye"; moreover, he can be a propitious holder of the children because he has been singled out for greatness as he is possessive of a "caul-" which  has properties to defend the harvest in the "-field."

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The Catcher in the Rye

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