Theme Of Hunting Hat In Catcher In The Rye

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“It’s a people shooting hat”: Motif in The Catcher in the Rye

A hat can do many things. It can cover. It can protect. It hides your hair. It keeps one warm, especially in cold weather. It is a symbol of expression. It is rebellious, if worn backwards. This functional object, in the world of Holden’s search for maturity, too acts in many distinct and figurative ways. When Holden Caulfield muses that his red hunting hat is more than just a hunting hat, it is actually a “people shooting hat”, the character himself attaches meaning to the object. It is symbolic to him and to us the reader. Throughout this work, Holden uses the hat in the ways any common person would, but it is how and why he uses the hat that is vital to understanding the character and the whole text. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses the red hunting hat as a motif, a recurring image/object to suggest Holden’s struggle to cover up his past and his search for the future.

To truly understand how the motif functions in the
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Holden promotes that he “shoot[s] people with this hat” (22). He does - with wit, with sarcasm, with glib portrayal. To survive the hunt, Holden uses the hat as a protective shield of sarcasm and that allows him to remain immature and avoid the necessary interaction to grow up – the one Phoebe and others beg him to engage it. He ridicules everyone as “phony”. He criticizes all those who try to engage him: Carl Luce is a “flit”, Ackley is a “goddman moron”, Spencer is “old”, etc. Holden shoots down the advice of those who desire for him to grow up. When Mr. Antolini warns that he is for “some kind of terrible, terrible fall” (186), (perhaps off the cliff to adulthood), Holden does not concentrate, changes the subject, and ultimately, whether justified or not, dismisses the affection of Mr. Antolini as a “flitty pass” (189), Holden consistently and often consciously shoots down those trying to

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