The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
Throughout the book, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger based the title of the novel on Holden´s misinterpretation of a famous poem, “Comin´Thro´the Rye” by Robert Burns. Within the novel Holden has several experiences that tie into his misinterpretation of the novel. He often pretends he is being a shot, his idea of him being the Catcher in the Rye, and the discussion Holden had with Mr.Antololini all contribute to his misunderstanding of the poem.

Holden’s interprets the words to the poem inaccurately and that causes him to understanding of the poem to become completely incorrect. “`If a body meet a body coming through the rye´ I didn't know it then thought. ´I thought it was “ If a body catch a body,” I said, “Anyway, I keep picturing all of these little kids playing some game in this big field of Rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody is around-nobody big, I mean- except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go off the cliff- I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they are going I have to come out from some where and catch them.`”(Salinger 156) The fact that he changes ¨catch¨ and “meet” completely changes his interpretation of the poem. The original meaning of the poem is talking about how since a girl’s petticoat is wet it is a possibility that she was going through the rye and kissing another person, yet her reaction to the kiss was crying so it refers to the guilt she feels about this relationship. The poem continues to say, “When somebody kisses somebody, need the whole world know? When somebody kisses somebody, the business is their own, “ leading us to believe this is a secret encounter which makes Jenny feel even more guilty. Through out the novel Holden reflects on this idea of “catching a body” but when he remembers the true meaning it doesn’t contribute to the book.
Holden throughout the book pretends to be shot, “About half way to the bathroom, I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts. Old Maurice plugged me.” (Salinger 93) His need to feel like a hero comes from his childishness, and his lack of feeling needed. Maybe if he is wounded he will have some importance since the hero must always be wounded and struggle but never die. This is where you first begin to understand his ideas and the lack of feeling needed he bares and how it ties into the poem. He most likely wouldn’t have responded to the poem like he did if it wasn’t for him wanting to feel like such a hero. Not once in the actual poem does it talk about being a hero, and none the less “catching” anybody, in fact quiet the opposite. Jenny is perceived of doing something wrong and guilty, the opposite of being a hero. Pretending to be shot is a way of him coping with reality that he connects to his fantasy world where he saves children.
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for his cause. While the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” (Salinger 169) Mr.Antolini finds this relevant to say to Holden, and it does protean to what Holden has been feeling throughout the book. However, even though Holden is battling to find his maturity and to feel needed this does somewhat connect to the poem in the sense that Jenny feels like she is doing something wrong and against some kind of rules. This most likely means she is a young girl that feels like she is to immature to do the right thing and be able to guiltless path.

Holden in some ways does reflect on the true meaning of the poem, but in many more ways does he prove that his confusion with the lyrics of the poem do in fact distort his entire view on the poem. He does misinterpret the poem and therefore comes up with ideas about it that affect to his every day life.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback