Holden has a really dumb hat. Well, it is dumb. Even he admits it:
I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning. 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. It only cost me a buck. The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back—very corny, I'll admit, but I liked it that way. I looked good in it that way. (3.3)
(Need a visual? Check out this selection.)
So, what’s going on with this hat? Notice that he buys the hat in New York on the morning after he left all the fencing equipment on the subway and ticked off the entire team. So we know he's feeling particularly vulnerable at the time, even though Holden would never admit to feeling vulnerable.
And that hat shows up over and over again at important moments—writing the composition about Allie's baseball mitt, staring at himself in the mirror and pretending to be tough after Stradlater punches him, yelling "Sleep tight, ya morons" down the corridor. Meanwhile, he takes it off when he's on the train, going to a bar, in hotel lobbies, and so forth. So while he's all about the hat in private, he's embarrassed or lacking confidence to wear it in public. (Although, fair enough, it was also just considered polite to take your hat off inside, just like today.)
We even get hints to this at the start of Chapter Thirteen ("I took my red hunting hat […] and put it on—I didn't give a damn how I looked"), the end of Chapter Sixteen ("I took my old hunting hat out […] and put it on. I knew I wouldn't meet anybody that knew me"), and the start of Chapter Twenty-One ("I'd already taken off my hunting hat, so as not to look suspicious").
But despite his embarrassment, the hunting hat becomes an important part of the way Holden sees himself. It's a people shooting hat, he declares (we hope not literally). When he's wearing it, he can be as insular and tough and as … individual as he wants—just like Allie and Phoebe, both redheads.
That's why it's such a big deal when Phoebe puts it on his head at the end of the novel: not only is she giving back to Holden, but she's demonstrating that she loves him as the individual that he is—corny red hunting hat and all. (Want to see a cute interpretation of this moment? Check out this image.)
Holden’s Red Hunting Hat and it’s Symbolism Essay
1457 Words6 Pages
Can a hat really provide a person with emotion, or for that matter, can a hat ever protect a person from their own emotions? In the book The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger the image of the main character’s red hunting hat comes up many times. Holden, the main character buys a hat while he is in New York with his school fencing team. Holden has just been kicked out of his school because for academic reasons, he decides to leave his school before the winter break starts, so he goes to New York. Steering clear from his family, except for his sister, he stays there for about three days on his own. During this time a lot happens to Holden, causing him to grow up. Holden’s hat is a metaphor for Holden’s growing up; in the beginning…show more content…
When it is over, both Holden and Stradlater are left in physical pain. “I kept sitting there on the floor till I heard old Stradlater close the door and go down the corridor to the can, then I got up. I couldn’t find my goddam hunting hat anywhere. Finally I found it… I put it on, and turned the old peak around to the back, the way I liked it” (45). The fight that Holden has with Stradlater is about Stradlater going out on a date with Holden’s friend Jane Gallagher. Holden gets upset with Stradlater for doing that because he thinks that Stradlater will cause Jane to lose her innocence. After Holden puts his hat on he stops thinking about Jane’s innocence and about his face, a more rational, less emotional subject. At another time Holden’s hunting hat allows him to show his emotions. Holden decides to leave Pencey early, as he is leaving he is very emotional. “I was sort of crying…I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, ‘Sleep tight, ya morons!’ (52). In this passage Holden is crying because he is leaving a school that he has been kicked out of, and going back to New York to be by himself for awhile. When he puts on his hunting hat it allows him to speak freely and emotionally, saying “sleep tight ya morons,” to his classmates.
As Holden grows up more and more in New York, he needs his hat less and less, until he doesn’t need it at