In "The Catcher in the Rye," what is signified when Holden misplaces the foils?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden loses the fencing foils and keeps the team from competing.  The significance of Holden losing the foils is two-fold.  First, Holden does not seem to want to move on from his life as it is.  He is afraid of graduating, hence his repetitive removal from schools.  The foils represent responsibility and Holden fears responsibility.  The loss of the foils shows that Holden refuses to fully accept the responsibilities that are given to him.  Secondly, Holden replaces the missing foils with a red hunting hat. Holden states that he bought the hat immediately after he realized the foils were missing. This replacement of the foils with the hat represents Holden's inability to accept his place in the world.  The hat represents Holden's compulsiveness, not his responsibility.  Therefore, Holden's replacement of the foils with the hat solidifies his inability to be responsible.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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