The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye Symbol Analysis

The Catcher in the Rye Symbol Icon
What Holden most wants to be in life is someone who stands on the edge of a cliff in a rye field catching children before they fall. The image is symbolic of Holden's desire to save both himself and other children from having to grow up into an adult world he sees as "phony." The image is even more symbolic because it is based on Holden mishearing a song based on Robert Burns (1759-1796) poem "Coming Thro the Rye," which is about two bodies meeting in the rye to have sex. Holden's misinterpretation underscores both his desire to shield children from the adult world, and his misunderstanding about just how innocent the world of children is.
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The Catcher in the Rye Symbol Timeline in The Catcher in the Rye

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Catcher in the Rye appears in The Catcher in the Rye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 22
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
...catch a body coming through the rye," and says he'd like most to be a catcher in the rye who rescues children from falling off a cliff while playing in a rye field. (full context)