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One of the most significant themes in Catcher in the Rye is Holden’s loss of innocence. Holden, as the novel progresses, shows a lack of innocence and an introduction to the “real world”. Holden attempts to grasp back at his previous innocence as a base for his emotions. There are various symbols and events throughout the novel that discuss Holden’s loss of innocence.
One of the most significant of these is the glove belonging to Holden’s deceased brother, Allie. This glove reminds Holden of his youthful fruitfulness and his unending love as a child. As Holden matures and enters adolescence he begins to lose this sense of love. The fact that he went to a boarding school may have contributed to this loss of love due to the fact that he was surrounded by phonies. He starts out the novel by saying “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 before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” This statement was said when he was in a medical center, after the story took place. He does not want to discuss his loving happiness as a child, rather he discuss his downfall in life. He acts as if he is afraid of his previous innocence and doesn’t like to reflect back upon it.
Another example of his innocence would be his interest in the ducks at the pond. He cares about those ducks and consistently asks people about what happens to the ducks in the winter. Despite the fact that probably nobody would know, he still asks them hoping to find an answer even though he knews his asking will get him nowhere.
Another important event would be the young boy singing “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.” This reminds Holden of his youth. The boy’s standing in the middle of the road symbolizes his innocence and lack of knowledge due to the danger of cars. Despite the fact that the boy is poor, he is still innocent and doesn’t have to worry about clothing or feeding himself. This is done by the parents concealing him from the real world like Holden in the beginning of his flashback. When Holden heard this he reflected on his past in a depressed manner. It seems as if he missed his past but didn’t want to grasp at it again.
Holden’s growth and steady maturity also lead to Holden’s loss of innocence. When Holden takes his sister, Phoebe, to the carousel, he chooses not to ride the carousel. He states that the carousel is for younger people. This statement shows that Holden has matured out of the carousel. He sits out and instead watches his younger sister on the carousel. Holden says that he will go on the next ride but fails due to his maturity and loss of innocence. Holden remembered his youthful innocence and stress free life as a child. Holden doesn’t ride the carousel proving that he is afraid to step back into his childhood by failing to step onto the carousel.
Holden’s loss of innocence eventually led to his downfall and final emotional collapse. Holden’s speech in the very last chapter, however, shows a chance that Holden may once again regain emotional control and finally take a firm grasp on his youthful innocence.
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