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In "The Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger, there are two topics that, in my opinion, are metaphors.

The first topic is the one of the ducks in the pond and where they go in winter. Looking on the web, it seems that there is some consensus on considering the ducks as an alter ego for Holden and its problems with his adolescence.

The second one, is the figure of the catcher in the rye. In this Wikipedia page, it says that:

This "catcher in the rye" is an analogy for Holden, who admires in children attributes that he struggles to find in adults, like innocence, kindness, spontaneity, and generosity. Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes. Later, Phoebe and Holden exchange roles as the "catcher" and the "fallen"; he gives her his hunting hat, the catcher's symbol, and becomes the fallen as Phoebe becomes the catcher.

I have my own interpretations of these two topics.

  1. In my opinion (just as a reader, since my education background is in STEM), the ducks are all the boys and girls, like Holden, that have a particular sensitivity and predisposition for investigating and questioning the world around them. For them, it is more difficult to accept the adult's world when they are growing up (in the metaphor, to remain in the pond when the winter is coming). From this comes the question that Holden cannot solve: how can these particularly sensitive individuals survive to adolescence? When he asks to the taxi driver, the only answer he receives is about fishes. Obviously, fishes are different from ducks and they can survive the whole winter in the frozen pond. In this metaphor, fishes are like those children that seem to be better dealing with the problem of growing up because they do not question themselves about the adult's world: they accept it as it is without raising any problem, since for them it is totally natural. Moreover, during the night that Holden spend in the park, he looks for other ducks in the grass near the pond (therefore, just outside the society where other human beings live). He does not find any duck, he only risks to hurt himself falling in the pond. In my opinion, this means that individuals with this particular sensitivity are completely isolated from the society, for them it is hard to find people similar to them. Therefore, society seems to not understand the problem since it is not a common problem.

  2. Again, my interpretation of the catcher is different from the proposed one. In my opinion, the cliff at the end of the field represents the possibility of mental illness during adolescence. Children are playing in the field during the childhood, but growing up they can have to face problems that can put at risk their own life. In this case, the catcher is not somebody that prevents the children from growing, but it is a person (maybe an adult?) that is fundamental in the development of the adolescent for surviving a period of struggle.

The question are: are these interpretations consistent with the whole novel? Is there an "official" interpretation? Is it different from mine and, if yes, how and why?

  • Is there an "official" interpretation? Generally in literary analysis, no, never. What matters is more to find an interpretation that makes sense and can be supported by evidence. If you've done that, great! – Rand al'Thor Sep 7 '18 at 17:18
  • @Rand al'Thor: There are common interpretations though. It would be very far-fetched to say its about the political situation in Somalia, for instance. – Mozibur Ullah Sep 7 '18 at 17:22
  • There's also the danger of over-interpretation. Holden is a teenager and not an 'it'; maybe that's where the problems begin from? – Mozibur Ullah Sep 7 '18 at 17:28
  • @Randal'Thor I did not mean to ask for a universal interpretation of this book, since I think that it is clearly impossible. What I was meaning by "official" was an interpretation that raised some consensus among critics and experts. Or maybe an explanation by the author, but I think it hard to find, considering Salinger's personality. – JackI Sep 7 '18 at 22:26
  • @MoziburUllah Could you please further develop what you mean? I do not understand what is the origin of the problems of Holden that you are proposing. – JackI Sep 7 '18 at 22:28

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