Symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye

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The symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye can be seen with the mention of the Museum of Natural History. His visit to the museum plays well into his fantasy of the catcher in the rye. At the Museum, the exhibits can be considered frozen in time and unchanging. Something that Holden longs for.

He wishes that the world could be like the museum where everything remained the same through time. He wants a black and white world, with no grey areas. That means life is simple and straightforward, no complications such as death. In the book, Holden explains the symbolic meaning of the museums displays.

He states “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. 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 deers would still be drinking out of that water hole […]. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that exactly.

You’d just be different, that’s all […] you’d be different in some way – I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.” (16.24) Holden likes the Natural History museum because, no matter what else changed in his life, it was always the same: it was like a little freeze-frame picture of his own childhood, a safe spot he could always come back to, that always remains the same. “Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.” (16.25) The Museum of Natural History represents a different aspect of Holden’s past. While Jane Gallagher makes Holden want to return to his past, the museum changes his mind. He remembers how he used to go there all the time, and how the wax figures were always the same, but from day to day, he was the only thing that would change. Next he walks to the Museum of Natural History, which he loved as a child; it seemed ‘the only nice, dry cozy place in the world.’ Nothing changed there among the stuffed Indians and Eskimos; except you. You changed every time you went in. Because of this consistent change, he realizes that he can’t go back in time to be the same way that he used to be, and that his past can never return to his present.

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Symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye. (2020, Sep 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/symbolism-in-the-catcher-in-the-rye/

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