Catcher in the Rye Essay: Levels of Meaning

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Levels of Meaning in The Catcher in the Rye


Protected by a cocoon of naiveté, Holden Caulfield, the principal character in the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, therapeutically relates his lonely 24 hour stay in downtown New York city, experiencing the "phony" adult world while dealing with the death of his innocent younger brother.  Through this well-developed teenage character, JD Salinger, uses simple language and dialogue to outline many of the complex underlying problems haunting adolescents.  With a unique beginning and ending, and an original look at our new society, The Catcher in the Rye is understood and appreciated on multiple levels of comprehension. The book provides new insights and a fresh view of the
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He says,

Anyway, I kept picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be "The Catcher in the Rye" and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. (173)

By saying this, Holden exposes his deepest desire, and Salinger exposes the books theme. Holden wants to protect childhood innocence, saving kids from having to live in the "crazy" and "phony", adult world.

This idea that pure children lose their innocence as they grow old is explored through the whole text. Holden is appalled by the phrase "Fuck You" written on school walls that are supposed to shield kids away from society. Also, Holden gives his Red Hunting cap to Phoebe to wear, acting as a shield, symbolizing security and protection. By the story's end Phoebe, riding on a carousel, a childlike image, waves to her protective brother, only happy as an idealized selfless secular saint.

Like the emotion Holden felt in Phoebe's school because of the walls, he became

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