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Did You Know

In the heyday of carousels, each came equipped with a device, mounted a few feet away from the carousel, that could dispense metal rings about the size of a bracelet. If you were sitting on one of the horses on the outside row, you could lean way out and grab one of these rings. Most were just gray lead rings, but if you got a gold-colored brass ring, you were allowed to ride again for free. This is where we get the phrase "to reach for the brass ring," meaning to go all out to win. The practice was eventually discontinued because kids would often fall off the carousel while reaching out to grab the rings. This is what Holden is referring to near the end of chapter 25. J.D. Salinger uses this to suggest that Holden has accepted that he can't protect everyone, and has to let them learn from their own mistakes.

The title of The Catcher in the Rye is based on Holden Caulfield's mistaken understanding of the words of a Robert Burns poem ("If a body meet a body..."). Since the title of the book itself is based on Holden's misunderstanding, Holden's whole perspective (and the whole premise of the book) is called into question. As critic John Romano writes, by doing this Salinger is choosing "to put in question the very point of view on which, by and large, he has staked his art. Such questioning of its own visionary standpoint is not the least of the reasons why, in the end, Catcher is so noble and honest a piece of work."

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26


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