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Symbolism of Salinger's Cover of Catcher in the Rye

Symbolism of Salinger's Cover of "Cather in the Rye"


I received word that the editors of the Little Brown and Company are considering changing the cover of JD Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. I strongly recommend that the cover be left alone. The book has been commended on its exemplary literary meaning for the past fifty years; the present cover is a visual representation of this meaning. The blank cover expresses the overriding theme of controlling one’s own fate, similar to John Locke’s idea of the tabula rasa (blank slate). Indirectly, the blank cover also expresses the fundamental conflict in the novel that is Holden Caufield’s inability to “come of age.”

Salinger’s development of Holden’s character extensively indicates his childish behavior. Like a little kid, the monologues he gives to his audience are simply rambling thoughts that flow through his mind. In the beginning of the book for example, Holden starts introduces his story and keeps skipping around to numerous topics:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me… but I don’t want to go into it…I’m not going to tell you the whole autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about the madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas…and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B about, and he’s my brother…now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B, being a prostitute. (1-2)

Holden starts by touching on his childhood, continues on about his parents, and culminates by calling his brother a Hollywood prostitute. Like a child, Holden’s attention span is minute and he cannot extensively talk about a particular subject. The childish qualities that Holden possesses do not only stop with his rambling but also includes his interesting interpretations. When he’s sitting in Central Park waiting to see his sister Pheobe, he expresses what he feels will happen to him because of sitting out in the cold, “I thought I’d probably get pneumonia and die. I started to picture millions of jerks coming to my funeral and all…I thought about the whole bunch on them sticking me in a goddamn...

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Category:   Catcher in the Rye

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