Catcher In The Rye Museum Symbolism

Superior Essays
The Symbolism of The Museum in The Catcher in the Rye
In the novel The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger Holden Caulfield has many struggles in his life which he has to face alone, but the museums around New York City reveal what is underneath his cold, independent persona. The museum not only symbolizes Holden’s youthful spirit but also his true intelligence; through this symbol, Salinger suggests that childhood innocence is frequently stifled by the need to conform to social norms in school atmospheres.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden exhibits childlike tendencies throughout the entire book but they are most apparent when he is at the Museum of Natural History. Most people think of museums as a place for children go on a rainy day, which
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In school, Holden’s lacks attention causing him to guard his knowledge from teachers. The only teachers who truly understand Holden’s worth are Mr. Antolini and Mr. Spencer. However, Mr. Spencer takes an aggressive approach with Holden whereas Mr. Antolini coddles him. At Mr. Spencer’s, Holden is humiliated and it triggers anger . Holden was asked if he would “‘care to hear what [he] had to say’” in his final essay and he tells Mr. Spencer no, yet “he read it anyway”(14). Reading the essay is what embarresses Holden and calls it a “dirty trick” because he knew that it was not any good, and he did not want to be reminded of that(13). After being humiliated by a teacher he confided in, Holden begins the downfall that leads him to hiding all his intelligence behind a wall. On the other hand, Mr. Antolini, welcomes Holden into his home and offers him a place to sleep. Mr. Antolini gives Holden an inspiring speech with a few hidden messages within it as a way to get Holden to work harder in school and pursue something he loves. With permission from Holden, he reads him the following quotation from the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one”(207-208). Mr. Antolini is encouraging Holden to …show more content…
When the novel starts out, Holden appears to be a slacker with no drive in school which is illustrated when he does not write more than 5 sentences on his final essay for history. Holden is very vague and shows little effort about the Egyptians in his essay. Almost all he writes in the essay is that “modern science would like to know what the secret ingredients were that the Egyptians used when they wrapped up dead people so that they’re faces would not rot for innumerable centuries” (14). Later in the book, once again at a different museum, Holden is able to open up more and reveal his knowledge to young children. When walking two boys to the mummy exhibit he explains to them that “they wrapped their faces up in these cloths that were treated with some secret chemical. That way they could be buried in their tombs for thousands of years and their faces wouldn’t rot or anything.” (224). This is a much more thorough explanation about the Egyptians than he previously had written in his essay revealing that Holden shows off his understanding of things when he is somewhere comfortable, like a museum, and shelters the knowledge when he is forced to use it, like in school. Next, Holden hears a little boy singing while walking around the park. The singing makes Holden happy

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