In the Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses different examples of symbolism
throughout the novel to let the reader into the thoughts of Holden Caulfield.
Three major examples of his symbolism are the ducks with the frozen pond,
Jane Gallagher, and the Museum of Natural History. Salinger uses all three
of these symbols to represent the thoughts of the central character, Holden
While Holden Caulfield is wondering around New York City, he asks many people
what happens to the ducks when the pond freezes. The repetition of this
question symbolizes what Holden is truly asking for himself. He isn’t trying
to find out what will happen to the ducks, he is really finding out about
himself by using the ducks symbolically. He wants to know what will happen
to him when the weather gets brutally cold. He is pondering on whether or
not to go home, which he is deftly afraid of doing, or stay outside and
The other two symbols in the novel, Jane Gallagher and the Museum of Natural
History, both represent Holden’s past. Jane Gallagher was an old friend of
Holden’s whom he mentions quite often throughout the novel. He many times
mentions that he will call her, but he never builds up the nerve to. As S.N.
Behrman stated in his review for The New Yorker, “Jane Gallagher represents
his everlasting symbol of goodness.” She is an important part of his past
that he misses a lot, and wants to have back again.
The Museum of Natural History represents a different aspect of Holden’s past.
While Jane Gallagher makes Holden want to return to his past, the museum
changes his mind. He remembers how he used to go there all the time, and how
the wax figures were always the same, but from day to day, he was the only
thing that would change. This is exemplified in a criticism by Frank
Kermode, from the Speculator. Frank states, “Next he walks to the Museum of
Natural History, which he loved as a child; it seemed ‘the only nice, dry
cozy place in the world.’ Nothing changed there among the stuffed Indians
and Eskimos; except you. You changed every time you went in.
Free Catcher in the Rye Essays: Role of Allie
The Role of Allie in Catcher in the Rye
Some authors create characters that appear briefly or not at all, but are a
significant presence. Even though he was dead, Allie affected the action, theme and
development of Holden.
The death of Holden’s younger brother Allie played an important role in Holden’s
actions. Holden could not deal with his death and showed it by causing physical harm to
himself. He did this to escape the pain he was feeling inside. Holden said that Allie was
“terrifically intelligent” and the “nicest” person. Because Allie died so young, Holden felt
that his innocence was taken away from him. This led to many of Holden’s actions. Such
as, Holden acted out and pretended to be people so that you could deal with the pain he
felt inside. It caused Holden to condone something that he was strongly opposed to as a
mere escape from the present. This is a direct result of the strife Allie’s death left on
The theme of Catcher in the Rye was greatly influenced by Allie. Because of his
early death, Holden felt his innocence had been stolen. In reaction to this Holden felt it
was his responsibility to protect the innocence of all children. As a result he developed a
job that he would like to have– “a catcher in the rye.” He would stand at the edge of a
cliff and catch the kids who were about to fall off. This meant that if someone was about
to lose their innocence, Holden would save them. If it weren’t for Allie, Holden would
not feel obligated to act as a proctector of innocence.
Throughout the novel, Holden repeatedly asked Allie not to let him disappear.
Holden felt like he was becoming invisible to the work around him. He had great respect
for Allie and knew that if anyone could save him, Allie could. During one incident, Holden
calls for Allie. This marks his breakdown. It is then, because of Allie, that he realizes that
it is inevitable that he will grow up. Holden is put in a psychiatric hospital.