Motif & Symbols in The Catcher in the Rye
Motif Definition: Motif is an object or idea that repeats itself throughout a literary work.
Motif and Theme: In a literary work, a motif can be seen as an image, sound, action, or other figure that has a symbolic significance, and contributes toward the development of a theme. Motif and theme are linked in a literary work, but there is a difference between them. In a literary piece, a motif is a recurrent image, idea, or symbol that develops or explains a theme, while a theme is a central idea or message.
Motif and Symbol: Sometimes, examples of motif are mistakenly identified as examples of symbols. Symbols are images, ideas, sounds, or words that represent something else, and help to understand an idea or a thing. Motifs, on the other hand, are images, ideas, sounds, or words that help to explain the central idea of a literary work – the theme. Moreover, a symbol may appear once or twice in a literary work, whereas a motif is a recurring element.
In class Practice Motifs Menu [NOT FOR ESSAY]:
When discussing each motif or symbol, use these following questions as inspiration for your analysis.
1. How does it come up in the novel, and how does it impact what is going on? What seems to happen immediately preceding or immediately following the mention or discussion of this motif or symbol?
2. What is the mood when this idea or thing is brought up? Would you associate this with the times when Holden is content? Frightened? Frantic? Confused? Something else? Is this mood consistent with every incidence of this motif?
3. Is Holden alone when this motif occurs? If not, with whom is he interacting? How would you characterize the interaction? Does this motif occur when he is alone or when he is with other people? Or both? Is there a connection to be made?
4. What does this motif or symbol tell you about Holden, in the “big picture” way – does this suggest anything about his personality? His weaknesses or his strengths? His sense of himself?
5. What pattern does this thing or idea help create? Connect the dots to your thesis and other motifs/symbols.
Motifs and Symbols Essay
YOUR TASK: When Holden meets with Carl Luce, Luce recommends that Holden see his father, who is a psychoanalyst. Apparently, Luce had made this same suggestion at some earlier times. He tells Holden that Holden would just talk, and his father would just listen and look for “patterns in your mind.” Write an essay that defines ONE pattern you ‘heard’ while reading Holden’s story. Revisit your handouts and Identity Poems Worksheets. Then, support your position by discussing THREE separate motifs or symbols in THREE separate body paragraphs that explore the symbols/motifs carefully and with specifics. Be sure to identify each as either a symbol or a motif in your paragraph topic sentence and use that to explore its value to understanding your assertion.
You may NOT write about any of the following in your body paragraphs:
Catcher in the Rye
Unmade Phone Calls / Wants to Communicate But Doesn’t
Patterns = Observations about Holden. Sample One Sentence Observations/Assertions:
Holden would like to catch/protect others.
Holden wishes to be caught/protected.
Holden is suicidal.
Holden is extremely generous.
Holden cherishes memories.
Holden has no home.
Holden does not feel he belongs anywhere.
Holden is a kind boy.
Holden does grow up a little by the end of his narrative.
Holden does not communicate well with others.
Holden seeks comfort in the wrong places.
Holden’s fantasies reveal ___ about him.
Holden is more adult than child-like.
Holden is more child-like than adult.
Holden holds on to ideas.
Holden longs for things to stand still and not change.
Holden criticizes the phonies around him.
Holden remains child-like despite struggling to become an adult.
Holden notices those around him who possess less wealth.
Holden values purity and innocence above all else.
When Holden values someone or something, he notices the tiniest details.
Holden is preoccupied with sex.
Holden seeks attention and wants others to know that he is wounded.
Holden worries about hurting others.
Holden’s attention to the grotesque demonstrates his ____.
Holden is extremely fragile.
Holden’s lies do not hurt others.
Holden’s lies are harmless.
Write your own [see your poems and handouts].
As you decide what to discuss, you need to understand whether you are working with a MOTIF (reoccurring) or a SYMBOL (something that represents something else). Your body paragraphs must maintain focus on that idea and how it supports your ASSERTION. Please bold font every time you use the word SYMBOL or MOTIF.
Paragraph One: Author, Title, + Assertion. One to two sentences.
Topic sentence identifying SYMBOL or MOTIF #1. Analysis understanding SYMBOL or MOTIF and how it connects to ASSERTION. Use combination of direct quotes with page citations and paraphrasing.
Topic sentence identifying SYMBOL or MOTIF #2. Analysis understanding SYMBOL or MOTIF and how it connects to ASSERTION. Use combination of direct quotes with page citations and paraphrasing.
Topic sentence identifying SYMBOL or MOTIF #3. Analysis understanding SYMBOL or MOTIF and how it connects to ASSERTION. Use combination of direct quotes with page citations and paraphrasing.
One sentence conclusion.
Formal Essay Musts
Motifs & Symbols in The Catcher in the Rye
You may NOT write about any of the following in your essay’s body:
Hunting Hat, Ducks, Museum, Catcher in the Rye, Unmade Phone Calls / Wants to Communicate But Doesn’t
As you decide what to discuss, you need to understand whether you are working with a MOTIF (reoccurring) or a SYMBOL (something that represents something else). Your body paragraphs must maintain focus on that idea and how it supports your ASSERTION.