Symbolism in books is used to represent ideas or themes in a story through objects

Symbolism in books is used to represent ideas or themes in a story through objects,
places or people. Throughout J.D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye, symbolism is used quite frequently to reveal themes and messages in the book through various means. The objects Salinger uses as symbols appear to be insignificant to the plot of the book at first glance, but as the novel progresses, the reader begins to gain a deeper understanding of how these objects represent some of Holden’s emotions and thoughts. Holden’s red hunting hat, Allie’s baseball mitt and the ducks in the lagoon at Central Park are all symbols in the novel.
Holden’s red hunting hat is brought up several times in The Catcher in the Rye, slowly
progressing to become a bigger and bigger part of the plot of the book. Holden has a weird hat, and even he knows this. “I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning. It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks. . . . The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back-very corny, I’ll admit it, but I liked it that way” (17-18). He buys the hat after leaving all his fencing equipment on the subway and irritating the team, so he is feeling pretty down and insecure at that time. The hat appears in other important parts of the novel, such as when he writes the composition for Stradlater, staring at himself in the mirror and pretending to be tough after he gets punched by him. Meanwhile, he takes it off when he is in public, showing he lacks the confidence to wear it around others. “I’d already taken off my hunting hat, so as not to look suspicious or anything.” (157) The hunting hat symbolizes that Holden is not a very bold person and is shy around others. But that is not the only thing that is symbolic about his hat. It also represents how he wants to stand out and more and be different from others, representing individually. A hunting hat is worn to make yourself stand out so other hunters do not shoot you, which may otherwise happen if you are only wearing camouflage. That is how Holden feels, like he needs his red hunting hat on to be noticed by others. This is just one symbol in the book out of many.
Allie’s baseball mitt has a tragic and sad meaning behind it. Holden had a younger
brother named Allie that passed away from leukemia when he was just eleven. Allie meant a great deal to Holden, so it is no surprise that he is still alive in Holden’s thoughts. He also keeps Allie’s baseball mitt with him as a symbol for his love for Allie, and as a way to feel protected and safe. When Holden thought he was going to die when he crossed the street at one point in the novel, he says to Allie, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. . . . Please, Allie” (198). This symbol is the key to understanding Holden’s emotional state. His inability to deal with his loss of Allie is the reason for many of his problems regarding people and academics in school. Allie’s baseball mitt that Holden keeps with him has poetry that Allie wrote on it, and Holden thinks Allie is a much smarter person than he is for doing so. Holden feels guilty that he is healthy and alive while his brother is dead. The baseball mitt also shows us the softer side of Holden and the importance he places on those he loves. That could also be tied into his kid side, which is shown he has through the ducks.
Holden’s obsession with the ducks in the lagoon at Central Park seems like a very
childish part of the book, but it has a really important meaning behind it. Holden thinks about the ducks when he is saying farewell to his teacher Mr. Spencer before he leaves Pencey, and asks where they go in the winter to two different taxi drivers. “I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go” (13). This question symbolizes Holden’s uncertainty of what will happen to him now that he has been kicked out of Pencey, just like he wonders what will happen to the ducks now that the lagoon is frozen over. The ducks also symbolize how Holden feels like a child and his innocence. Holden is mostly negative throughout the novel, but when it comes to the ducks, he has a lot of curiosity about something that should not be a question for someone his age. He is frequently worried about how the ducks are doing and where they go. This reveals that Holden does have some childlike innocence in him still.
The symbols in The Catcher in the Rye play a very big role in helping us understand the
story. These symbols are seen as insignificant parts to the plot early on in the novel, but become more and more significant as the book progresses. The red hunting hat symbolizes Holden’s lack of confidence and wanting to stand out to fix that. Allie’s baseball mitt symbolizes his love for Allie and is the reason for many of his troubles. The ducks in the lagoon at Central Park symbolize his uncertainty of what is going to happen to him after being expelled from Pencey and his childlike innocence that is still in him along with him thinking he is still a child. All these symbols help us understand more of what Holden’s emotions and thoughts are.