Catcher In The Rye Red Hunting Hat Essay

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lends itself particularly well to a psychoanalytic read because Holden himself is in a psychoanalytic session for the entirety of the novel; however, this therapist is neither seen nor described to the reader.

In fact, Holden only mentions the doctor in 2nd person references, and for practical purposes the reader himself takes the place of the psychoanalyst from the very first line: "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, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." In effect, the reader becomes the "you" Holden refers to and is thus responsible for analyzing Holden’s words for their psychological significance.

Indeed, Holden’s reinforcement of the aggression implicit in a hunting hat ("I shoot people in this hat") does seem to be counterbalanced by the tenderness when he eventually gives the hat to Phoebe ("She really likes those kinds of hats").

Yet his tenderness is not selfless but instead is a result of his hero complex, his vision of himself as a catcher-savior.

Symbolically castrated early in the novel as he is expelled from school (getting "the ax"), Holden becomes obsessed with his phallic replacement: his hunting cap.

As exposed by his digressions, nervous habits, and fixations, Holden’s psychological state is one consumed by a loss, and his resulting actions are a reaction to that loss.Holden is symbolically castrated early on in the novel as he is expelled from school ("I got the ax"), and again when he loses his fencing foils on the subway.As a result, Holden fetishizes his phallic replacement: the red hunting cap that will become his focus for the entirety of the novel.Holden’s most significant obsession is the loss, or feared loss, of his manhood, as his frequent digressions reveal.His metaphoric castration begins with his expulsion from school: "So I got the ax.To compensate for this castration anxiety, Holden develops a fetish for an object of clothing that represents his penis, his hunting hat.Holden’s obsession with this hat is clearly pivotal, yet the symbolic nature of the hat is controversial.Holden’s appropriation of the hat as compensation for his castration, then, conflates both ideas: the hat represents aggression and heroism, two traits implicit in his sense of manhood.The timing of Holden’s hunting hat purchase is important.Holden buys the hat immediately after he has lost the fencing foils: "It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks.I saw it in the window of this sports store when we got out of the subway, just after I noticed I’d lost all the goddam foils." Interestingly, Freud performed a dream analysis involving a hat with a similar appearance, and he immediately associated the symbol as phallic: "No doubt the hat was a male genital organ, with its middle-piece sticking up and its two side-pieces hanging down" ( 361).


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