.. es that “you could see that hat about ten miles away”(Salinger 205), however, Holden is clueless as to exactly how much that hat makes him stand out, even when he sees it on his little sister. He does not understand the brand that society has put on him through that red hat. Societys affect on Holden becomes illustrated through the red hat by way of a brand or mark. The hat is something that Holden bought for himself, yet in the end it became a mark of society on Holden because the peculiarity of the hat separated him from others. The most important symbol in the novel The Catcher in the Rye is most likely the symbol that gives the book its title. Holdens fascination with the Robert Burns poem ” If a Body Meet a Body”, spurs this dream of his future occupation.
First of all, Holden hears the song being sung by a little boy whose parents are completely ignoring him. The child is walking next to the curb in a straight line singing “If a body catch a body coming through the rye”. Holden enjoys hearing the song and watching the little boy : ” He was just singing for the hell of it, you could tell. The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing “If a body catch a body coming through the rye” (Salinger 115). Holden hears this little child walking along and singing, not caring what anyone thinks of him.
It comforts him because this little child is a representation of Holden. The boy is being ignored, and yet he keeps going along singing like there was nothing wrong. Holden wishes that he could go along just like that little boy, but instead he has to grow up and face the world. The child is also a symbol, because it represents this innocence that Holden wishes to hold on to, but he cannot manage to hang on as hard as he tries. The child also signifies Holden in the fact that his parents are like the childs: completely unaware of their youngster, even when he faces dangers of speeding cars. Holden sees this child as lost, like himself but he realizes that the child may have a chance.
At the very end of the novel, Holden is having a conversation with his little sister, Phoebe, about the song that he heard the little boy singing. Holden then proceeds to talk about what he wishes he could do all day long : “You know what Id like to be?” I said… “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all..What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff…I have to come out from somewhere and catch them . Id just be the catcher in the rye and all.” (Salinger 172-173) Holden finally states what he wants to do with the rest of his life. To everyone else it sounds crazy, but Holden dreams of catching little kids before they fall off of a cliff. The rye field that Holden sees all of these children playing in is the playground of childhood.
The children playing in the rye field cannot see over the rye and into what looms in their future. To make sure that none of the children have to face what Holden did, he will catch them so that they do not have to go through the transition all alone. Holden Caulfield wants to catch kids before they fall off into the oblivion that he has been faced with in his transition to adulthood. The little boy that he saw walking in the street was one of the ones that he could have saved had he been able to. Holden wishes that someone would have saved him from falling off that cliff, and so now he dreams of saving others from the isolation and indecision that he had to face.
Salinger is trying to show the reader that Holden wants to save the innocence of other children because he was forced to surrender his. He makes a point of Holdens innocence being so dear to him, which is exactly what society is trying to take away from Holden. Through the use of setting, and symbolism, J. D. Salinger shows the reader that Holden , needs the support of the environment around him, and the environment also needs Holden as a person. He comes from a generation that cannot find their identity: one that leaves people with so little choice that they become angry and bitter, and cannot figure out their place in the world. Holdens lack of guidance by his parents leaves him to be guided by the environment that he lives in. He cannot fit in, because society is not a good teacher, and Holden becomes mixed up in his values and his ways. Society mandates that people be what society thinks, but this is not the case.
Holden Caulfield, in trying to do what society thinks best, ends up a victim of indecision. The society that is creating Holden is ever changing, and whenever Holden thinks he is figuring everything out, he becomes lost again. The novel distinctly portrays the society Holden lives in as controlling him, however, Holden just does not belong to that society. He cannot go forward and he cannot go back; he is stuck in the middle, feeling very lost. In this novel, JD Salinger is moderately effective at portraying the nature of societal and individual interdependency.
While Salinger is highly effective when portraying the interdependency between and individual and their environment, he is not very effective when portraying the dependency in symbols. While Salingers symbols send messages to the reader, his settings show the actual conflicts between a person and his environment, and the effects that both the individual and the society have on each other.