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

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

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 ...read more.

Middle

The Catcher in the Rye is essentially Holden's journey into adulthood. At first he does not accept adulthood at all. Salinger uses his love for small children and hatred for adults to symbolise this. Every adult he comes in contact with has serious flaws. Even Mr Antolini, the best person the adult world has to offer Holden, the only adult Holden will stay with and was 'about the best teacher I ever had' (174), is seriously flawed. He is intelligent , friendly and hospitably yet he comes close to sexually molesting Holden. Children however are seen as perfect. Allie was not only 'the most intelligent member of the family' (38), but he was 'also the nicest, in lots of ways' (38). 'You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life' (67) as Phoebe. In Holden's eyes she is also perfect, despite her constant whining and 'snobbishness, Holden never gets annoyed by her. ...read more.

Conclusion

This fantasy is however shattered as well, by the 'Fuck you' signs that he finds. Those words symbolise the total and utter loss of innocence. He knows that 'its hopeless anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out half the "fuck you" signs in the world. It's impossible' (202). He knows that in the end, there is no way that he can keep the children innocent. Symbolism is a subtle way of communicating one's message. It requires intelligence and insight to deduce what the author is trying to say. Salinger does not want just any 'phoney' to understand his character. He does not want those unintelligent, narrow minded and materialistic people that he criticizes so harshly to comprehend his message. His message is there for the 'brilliant and creative' (189) people. Only those people will truly be able to realize that you cannot cage the innocence of childhood. Instead we must sit back and watch the children go round and round the carrousel and be happy in the knowledge that their purity is a glimmer of hope in our evil world. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

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

Here's what a star student thought of this essay

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 ...

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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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