Analysis of Various Themes in the Catcher in the Rye

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Themes have the ability to take a mundane piece of literature and transform it into a classic piece of literary art. The theme of a novel is the recurring, unifying subject or idea that allows the reader to understand the message of the work on a much deeper level. Themes make books personal and meaningful as the insight onto characters and society sticks with the reader long after the trivial details begin to vanish. The Catcher in the Rye, a classic work by J.D. Salinger, is laden with multiple themes that make the reader question not only the novel, but their own worlds and actions. As the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, is caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood, the themes of innocence, alienation, and “phoniness” evince themselves to give a clearer description of Holden’s character. .

The most prevalent theme in The Cater in the Rye is innocence and the loss of it. Holden wants to be the protector of innocence. Holden first shares this with his sister Phoebe, when he mentions a poem by Robert Burns. They are talking about what Holden wants to be and do with his life. Holden describes a scene; it is apparent that he has been thinking of this for a while now. There are kids playing some sort of game in a field of rye and he is “standing on the edge of some crazy cliff” (Salinger 173). He is the only older person around. The kids are so caught up in their game that some of them run and stumble too close to the cliff. It is his job to catch them and protect them from the tumultuous fall off the cliff that would kill them and their innocence. The children are innocent; they symbolize innocence. The cliff is the loss of it. Holden says that catching children would be “all I’d do all day. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy” (Salinger 173).

In the same way he wants to protect the hypothetical children from their ultimate demise, he wants to protect his sister and all the children at his old...
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