Holden Caulfield Individualism

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Bradley Edwards Mr.Keen ENG 2D1 24 November 2014 A Society of Individuals: The Loss of Individuality in The Catcher in the Rye “I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff... I’d just be the catcher in the rye” (173). This quotation shows Holden Caulfield’s views on the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the comparison to a cliff shows that there is a sharp fall and great loss that accompanies it. This loss is one of uniqueness and individuality and is a theme that is seen constantly throughout J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. A strong aspect of this theme is shown through the use of symbolism. Three critical symbols that are used to convey the loss of individuality are the Museum of Natural History, the…show more content…
The hat is first introduced when Holden and Ackley are sitting in Holden’s room, and they are having a conversation. The dialogue begins when Ackley says “‘That’s a deer shooting hat.’ ‘Like hell it is… This is a people shooting hat… I shoot people in this hat’” (22). Holden is saying that while he is wearing the hat, he judges and scolds other people. This is most likely because Holden feels that people are phony, and everybody acts how society wants them to, and not as individuals. By wearing his red hunting hat, he is unique and able to separate himself from all of the phoniness that surrounds him, and by extension, can justify his judgement of others without being hypocritical. Holden’s red hunting hat makes many more appearances in the novel, but is most frequently talked about when Holden is saying how he doesn’t care about how he looks in it. However, the number of times he seems to need to justify wearing it, coupled with the fact that he only really wears it in private, makes readers believe that he is actually quite insecure about wearing it. Examples of this appear when Holden says "I took my red hunting hat out of my pocket and put it on—I didn't give a damn how I looked"(88), "I took my old hunting hat out … and put it on. I knew I wouldn't meet anybody that knew me" (122), and "I'd already taken off my hunting hat, so as not to look suspicious"(157). Considering the fact that the hat represents his individuality, readers can see that when he is wearing the hat, he is being his own person, but when he is not, he succumbs to social norms. The combination of both of these also fits with Holden’s adolescence, where he is between the stages of childhood and adulthood; between being an individual, and a part of a set system. Furthermore, this loss of individuality can be seen in the people around Holden, and what they think of his hat. For example, when adolescent Ackley

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