Exploring What Does the End of "Catcher in the Rye" Mean

Picture a professional athlete in your mind’s eye. What immediately comes to your imagination? Raw talent, commitmentment, discipline, an unwavering drive to succeed, and fierce competitiveness all symbolize behaviors and attitudes of a professional athlete. Symbolism uses a concrete object, like the athlete, to represent abstract ideas, like the behaviors and attitudes listed above. Many times writers use symbolism to aid in communicating and reinforcing ideas. J.D. Salinger uses symbolism in “Catcher in the Rye” to illustrate the loss of innocence as the main character, Holden, struggles with becoming a young adult. This symbolism can explain what does the end of “Catcher in the Rye” mean.

The Museum of Natural History symbolizes how life could have been the same as it was before Holden’s brother, Allie, died. Allie’s death was Holden's first and most impactful loss of innocence. Holden describes the museum as, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move”. Thus, the consistency of the displays in the museum is relevant to Holden, because if everything stayed the same his brother wouldn't have died. Consistency creates comfort. Like most humans knowing what to expect makes life easier. Holden describes how everything always stayed the same, “You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deer would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket'. However, things had changed for Holden and his brother had died. That pain and hurt was difficult for him to face. In the book Holden decides not to go in to the museum after all. “Then a funny thing happened. When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldn’t have gone inside for a million bucks. It just didn’t appeal to me”. The reason that Holden didn't want to go inside the museum is because it didn't change, but his life had. To be in Holden’s shoes would be so hard because he wished everything stayed the same, like the museum. The museum symbolizes consistency and reliability which he desperately wants for his life.

Holden really wanted to step up, and show that he was more mature than he has advertised earlier on in the book. Holden, knowing that the parents weren't around, made him want to be a leader and make sure all of the kids are ok. “I keep 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”. Holden really wanted other people not to endure what he had to go through. The Glove represents that Holden wants to catch everyone, and doesn't want them to experience what he had to.“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 are going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them”. By doing this he shows the readers the other side of him, that he wants to be the good guy that helps everyone. If holden shows that he really wants to save all of the kids then it really puts a different perspective on him. “That’s all i 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”. The glove means a lot it shows fearlessness by Holden. He does the best he can and takes care of everyone. Everyone that falls off the rye Holden catches.

Here is where you see J.D. Salinger show the readers that Holden had some sympathy for the kids. Holden didn't want the kids to see all of the vulgar words that were on the wall, so he did his best to get it off. “I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody’d written “Fuck you” on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy”. This really shows the reader that he is trying and wants these kids to live a good young life. The reason that he is doing this is because this is how he would have wanted to live his young life if he had the choice.

“I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they’d wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them-all cockeyed, naturally-what it meant, and how they’d all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days.”

“I kept wanting to kill whoever’d written it.” 

21 Jun 2023
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