The Catcher in the Rye
Everyone has to grow up sometime in their life, but no one can say that they haven’t longed for the innocence and simplicity of childhood again. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses many symbols to portray Holden’s inner conflict of staying in childhood and innocence, or growing up and becoming an adult. This conflict is shown throughout the book, through Holden’s relationships to other people, especially his siblings Phoebe and Allie. In the novel, Salinger uses symbols such as the bus, Holden’s hotel room, and the taxi, to symbolize Holden’s journey towards the adult world, and the loss of his childhood innocence.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is seen using buses a few times, as one of his means of travel. Holden rarely uses the buses, avoiding them on a regular basis, usually using taxis instead. This avoidance of the buses by Holden parallels his avoidance of growing up and entering adulthood. Towards the ...view middle of the document...
The cab represents adulthood, and how Holden wants to keep his innocence and childhood and not grow up and become an adult. Yet Holden knew somewhere in his mind, that he would eventually have to grow up. Holden talks about how he hates cabs and doesn’t want to use them, yet he still uses them on a regular basis. Towards the beginning of the novel there is a scene where Holden is first in a taxi, and while in the taxi he puts on his red hunting hat. The red hunting hat is his protection against the adult world, and he puts it on to protect himself from the adult presence that is the taxicab. Holden is also seen asking the taxi drivers about the ducks in the pond, but the drivers always blow off the question as childish or unimportant. To Holden the ducks represent his childhood, and the taxi drivers blowing the question off show how the taxi is part of the adult world that surrounds Holden, and yet he is trapped in childhood.
Holden’s hotel room in The Catcher in the Rye is notably important to Holden’s sense of growing up. The hotel room is described as “[a] very crumby room, with nothing to look out of the window at except the other side of the hotel”(61). The adult world is not alluring or charming, and it is not fun or pretty. Living in the adult world is hard work and can be emotionally draining; yet it gives a sense of independence and maturity. The hotel room Holden is staying in is run-down and unattractive, and Holden has a trying event occur in the hotel room, between himself, Maurice, and Sunny the prostitute. Yet, Holden is still living by himself, and caring for himself. Holden is shown avoiding the hotel frequently, only sleeping in the room for a few hours, before leaving again. Holden’s evasion to the hotel room parallels Holden’s evasion to growing up and leaving behind his childhood innocence.
Holden journeys through the novel trying to find his place in the world, whether in childhood or the adult world. The taxi, the bus and the hotel room are several symbols in the Catcher in the Rye that J.D. Salinger uses to portray the adult world. Growing up is not only about aging, and losing your innocence and obtaining a sense of maturity. Growing up is about discovering self-identity and discovering yourself as a person.