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Why is symbolism in the Catcher in the Rye so important?

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  • Essay length: 1095 words
  • Submitted: 03/06/2005
  • Marked by teacher: (?) Karen Reader
  • Reviewed by: (?) _becca 02/04/2012
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AS and A Level J.D. Salinger

Teacher essay summary

4 star(s)

This is an interesting, thoughtful essay, which considers a number of different symbols and their functions. The text is used very effectively and the essay works best when arguments are presented concisely. ****

Marked by teacher Karen Reader 11/05/2012

The first 200 words of this essay...

Andre Malan

(word Count 1064)

Why is symbolism in the Catcher in the Rye so important?

Symbolism is an essential element in any literary work. This is especially true for J.D. Salinger's novel the Catcher in the Rye. Salinger's main character, Holden finds it difficult to communicate with the outside world and therefore with us, the reader. Salinger uses symbolism as a subtle way of communicating Holden's emotions and faults to us the reader, without compromising the consistency of his characters by forcing Holden to do so. Salinger also uses symbolism to relate events in the novel to society at the time and expose its faults to public ridicule and criticism. Finally Salinger uses symbolism to highlight the idea of Holden making a journey and to make the reader aware of when Holden's journey has reached an end.

Holden hides his emotions from himself and from those around him. He says that his breaking of the car windows was 'just for the hell of it' (Salinger 39), when it is patently obvious to the reader that this violent reaction was due to anger and pain caused by the death of his brother Allie.

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Review of essay

Reviewed by: _becca

Rating: 4 star(s)

Response to the question

Throughout the essay there is a clear and sustained focus on symbolism, which is good as it show that the writer has understood what the question is asking. Each paragraph is structurally clear and the writer always relates back to the question.

Level of analysis

In terms of analysis and evaluation, the writer quotes often and uses pertinent quotes throughout, allowing his points to be quote-driven, which is a good technique as it shows that the points are derived from the text rather than randomly thought of. These quotes are often linked to context and the writer is often perceptive and thoughtful, deriving interesting conclusions from the text (such as the point about the perfection in childhood in the novel). However, there is not much alternative interpretation – for example, in paragraph 4, the writer could consider if there are any imperfect descriptions of children within the novel. If not, this allows for excellent evaluation – WHY are there no flaws in children in the novel? What was Salinger trying to get the reader to feel? And, most importantly, is this effective? These evaluative points would show that the writer doesn't merely take what is written at face value, but questions how effective they are on the reader, or whether different people would react differently.
The writer uses the introduction and conclusion excellently to guide the reader through the essay, although the first sentence - “Symbolism is an essential element in any literary work” - could have been significantly expanded upon, even in an introduction. The question asks why symbolism is important in the novel, so here the writer could have briefly explained why symbolism is important at all (including how writers often use symbolism, metaphor and allegory to offer different levels of meaning and ambiguity, which require more than a superficial read to understand). This is somewhat done in the conclusion, though it is not immediately clear that the first sentence is being answered – the writer should more explicitly link this to the introduction to consolidate the circular feel of the essay, which is a good feature in an essay as it brings it together as a whole.

Quality of writing

Something the writer does well is, at points, write in the language of the novel - “Salinger does not want any old 'phoney'”, for instance. This shows a deeper connection and higher level of understanding of the text.
Spelling and grammar is generally good, though the sentences are often structurally simple – the writer could join some sentences together to make the essay flow better, such as “At first he does not accept adulthood at all. Salinger uses his love for small children and hatred for adults to symbolise this.” being turned into one sentence with a connective or a piece of open punctuation. This is easy to do and would immediately make the entire essay seem in itself more complex and flowing. Technical terms could also have been used, such as calling the novel a “Bildungsroman” (a story about growing up), which would also give the essay a tone of knowledge and research.

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MbT essay summary

This is an interesting, thoughtful essay, which considers a number of different symbols and their functions. The text is used very effectively and the essay works best when arguments are presented concisely. ****

Marked by teacher Karen Reader 11/05/2012

Marked by a teacher

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Peer reviewed

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