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Catcher in the Rye Essay: Levels of Meaning

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 world in which adolescents live.

One way for readers to measure their level of comprehension in this story, is to explore the meaning of the title, it’s effect on the book’s theme and how it provides a deep look into Holden’s character. Being an attention demanding tool, the title also can provide a mystery to which the reader can understand by pulling together the clues, hidden in the text. To an experienced reader, who may be familiar with the book, imagery of a catcher in the rye is apparent throughout the story. However, for a new reader the journey begins past the middle of the book.

While analyzing the city around him, Holden sees a kid walking in the street “singing and humming.” As Holden nears he realizes the child is signing that song, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye” in a very pretty voice, making traffic come to a screeching halt, and making Holden feel “not so depressed.”(116)

So far, the title’s words are just a catchy song, though their repetition, at a key mo…

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…ginal tune, by Robert Burns, has the line “If a body meet a body comin thro’ the rye,” not “If a body catch a body comin thro’ the rye.” This is not the first time Holden has distorted something, though this lie has meaning. The original poem talks of the love of two people meeting each other, while Holden’s image is that of falling children being caught. Love is replaced by Holden protecting children, who are facing a death-like situation, a change showing how much of an impact Allie’s death made on Holden’s life. One might also see that Holden himself is falling out of innocence and needs a Catcher in the Rye himself, the book’s central paradox.

In the end any reader could say that “The Catcher in the Rye” is Holden Caulfield, though this title opens up a door into understanding his deep personality, the books theme, while exploring the central paradox.

Catcher in the Rye Essay: The Need for Control

Need for Control in Catcher in the Rye

With his work, The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger created a literary piece that was completely unique. The entire novel was written from the first person viewpoint of the 17-year-old boy Holden Caulfield. The majority of the story is compiled of Holden’s rudimentary monologue of “complexly simple” thoughts, the rest utilizing his relay of previous dialogue. That, along with the use of unique punctuation, digressing explanations, and complex characterization, transforms the simple plot into a complex literary classic. The novel’s dialogue and monologue alike manage to relay the feel of natural speaking such as “I mean you’d be different in some way – I can’t explain what I mean.” The contractions “you’d” and “can’t”, since they are common in everyday language, establish a very common and simple tone. Stress on the first syllable of “different” reinforces the tone by demonstrating how typically they speak. He uses dashes for pauses and the signaling of associative digressions. Instead of for signaling pauses, commas are used only where mechanically required. “So all of a sudden, I ran like a madman across the street – I d*** near got myself killed doing it, if you want to know the truth – and went in this stationary store and bought a pad and pencil.” ***CITE THIS???***

Holden Caulfield creates a thought-provoking point of view. On the surface, many of his thought patterns seem unrelated and stray from the topic. His association of topic with digression is used almost constantly throughout the novel. However, realizing that these digressions are very relevant and even crucial to the topic, he allows the reader to gain true insight into the character. His statements …

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… His being the lone “big” person expresses his desire of being in control. The playing in the rye field next to a crazy cliff would depict the nearness to his fall while being oblivious to the danger. His one wish is to be able to prevent this, to be in control. Then, after establishing his wishes, he considers it impossible by expressing thoughts of it’s craziness. He has resolved that he cannot be in control, but it is all he wants. In a world before alternatives to his painful lifestyle, what can Holden do but blindly play the game in the rye field, right beside his cliff of sanity. “But life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one must play by the rules.”

Bibliography 3rd edition Psychology (Bernstein-Stewart, Roy, Srull,

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