English Critical Lens

July 20, 2017 General Studies

Duff Brenna states that “All literature shows the power of emotion. It is emotion, not reason that motivates the characters in literature. ” This quote means that most characters have a strong sense of emotion. This emotion drives characters to do harsh tasks or to make tough decisions. The reasoning in characters is often times overpowered by their strong sense of emotion. This quote is valid in J. D Salinger’s novel, The Catcher and the Rye. One would think this because of many problems Holden Caufield is faced with.

Holden’s strong sense of emotion is what motivates him, not reasoning. In life, some people are unfortunate enough to have a loved one die in their life. In the novel, Holden Caufield has to deal with many problems, such as overcoming his brother’s death. This also develops a theme in the story. As a main character, Holden has a difficult time coping with Allie’s death. “I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all of the god dam windows with my fist, for the hell of it” (Salinger 39). This quote shows Holden’s strong sense of emotion, rather than reasoning.

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Furthermore, Holden often thinks of Allie because of how much he means to him. When Holden is walking down the street and he comes to an intersection, he feels like he is disappearing as he walks. Then, Holden begins to talk to his brother Allie. Holden starts telling Allie not to let him fall and disappear into the intersection. This shows the progression of character in Holden Caufield and his emotions towards his loved ones. Therefore, it represents Holden’s irrationality because a reasonable person would not talk to non-living people.

Holden Caufield is also involved with many symbols in the book. These symbols show his power of emotion, rather than reasoning. Holden’s red hunting hat sometimes symbolizes the protection and comfort it gives him. “I couldn’t find my goddam hunting hat anywhere. Finally I found it. It was under my bed. I put it on, and turned the old peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I went over and took a look at my stupid face in the mirror”(Salinger 45). This quote shows that the hat comforts and protects Holden through tough times.

When Holden turns it backwards, he wears it like a baseball catcher. This symbolizes Holden being a “catcher in the rye”. He explains this to Phoebe when he comes back home for a little while. Holden constantly sees himself standing near a cliff and catching younger kids if they are about to fall off. Another symbol in the book is the gold rings hanging from the top of the carousel. Towards the end of the book, Phoebe reaches for the gold rings hanging from the top. At first, Holden is worried she might fall, but then relieved when she grasps them.


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