Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Motif paper example

Please read the following example paper: Comment on techniques, style, and anything else you find relevent. Don't simply say "He/she did a nice job", but point out what worked.

“It’s a people shooting hat”: Motif in The Catcher in the Rye

A hat can do many things. It can cover. It can protect. It hides your hair. It keeps one warm, especially in cold weather. It is a symbol of expression. It is rebellious, if worn backwards. This functional object, in the world of Holden’s search for maturity, too acts in many distinct and figurative ways. When Holden Caulfield muses that his red hunting hat is more than just a hunting hat, it is actually a “people shooting hat”, the character himself attaches meaning to the object. It is symbolic to him and to us the reader. Throughout this work, Holden uses the hat in the ways any common person would, but it is how and why he uses the hat that is vital to understanding the character and the whole text. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses the red hunting hat as a motif, a recurring image/object to suggest Holden’s struggle to cover up his past and his search for the future.

To truly understand how the motif functions in the text, we must look at its everyday function and how Salinger creates meaning from it.

It covers. But what does it cover? First, it covers Holden’s hair, which is “gray” with “one side of [his] head…full of millions of gray hair” (9). The hat here conceals Holden’s appearance of age or maturity. Holden claims he has had “them ever since [he] was a kid” and that people mistake him for being older. Holden, who says he “acts like [he’s] only thirteen”, desires to remain young and not be confused as an adult or live in the adult world. Second, the color of the hat helps Holden cover up his signs of maturity. The red hat can be seen as a substitute for his dead brother Allie. As Holden remembers, Allie “never got mad at anybody” unlike the stereotype of “people with red hair [who] are supposed to get mad very easily” (38). It is interesting that in making this observation of Allie and his red hair, Salinger juxtaposes the scene wherein Holden breaks “all the goddam windows with [his] fists, just for the hell of it” (39). Holden cannot control his maturing and he cannot control his anger or rage at a world, which had deprived him of his brother Allie. Therefore, he uses the hat to cover up his pain, anger, and his signs of maturity. Holden through the use of the hat desires to remain in arrested development, perpetual adolescence. He is twelve when Allie dies, the same age his hair begins to gray, and it is this age and this sense of innocence that the hat provides.

So, the hat protects as well. Yes, the hat is protecting Holden from his own realization about maturity, but they are other elements from which the hat protects Holden Caulfield. It is, after all, winter and weather is important. Here, Salinger uses the motif of the red hunting hat in conjunction with his setting. The winter season, in all its gloom and frozenness, acts as a season of despair to with Holden tries to escape:
You wouldn’t even have known it had snowed at all. There was hardly any snow on the sidewalks. It was freezing cold, and I took my red hunting hat out of my pocket and put it on – I didn’t give a damn how I looked. I even put the earlaps down. (88)


The hat is a way for Holden to retreat from the cold. Moreover, the cold serves as the environment in which Holden must hunt and seek. But what is he hunting or what is he hunting for?

First, we have already explored how the hat covers the pain he feels about Allie’s death and how the hat acts as a means of protection in this depressed period of his life. But, the hat as a “hunting” hat functions in two more distinct ways: 1) his search for his own childhood, and 2) his sarcastic defense against those who he perceives as phony.

Let us first explore the hunt itself. Along with the hat, Salinger populates the hunt with images that reinforce Holden’s desire to hold on to childhood: the paper on Egyptians in which Holden wonders about mummies, the Museum of Natural History where “everything always stayed right where it was”, the carrousel where childhood is repeated in a circle, and finally, the pond. To get to the point of what Holden is searching for, we must look at his desire to find out where the ducks go.
“Well, you know the ducks that swim around in it? In the springtime and all? Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance?”
“Where who goes?”
“The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck of something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something?” (81-82)



Again, the desire to escape winter and depression is revealed in this scene. He is looking for a way out of his problem and is realizing that remaining “frozen” in childhood is no longer an option. Perhaps, somebody will come around in a truck; (in the end, he is committed to an institution). Or perhaps, he could fly away. The fleeing ducks can be seen as his childhood that is escaping, that will not freeze, and will not come back when it/he is thawed.

How does the hat fit in? The hat, which protects him from the world and covers his maturity, affords him the remaining time to hunt for his perpetual childhood. Without the hat, his hunt is over. The hat is off, and he is mature. When Holden decides his hunt as fruitless, he bestows the hat upon his sister, Phoebe; through her, he desires to protect and see everlasting childhood. He beams when she is on the carrousel, and bemoans lost when her favorite childhood record Little Shirley Beans is broken and can no longer spin. Even though, she “didn’t want to take [the red hat]”, he “ma[kes] her” (180). He forces her into his desire of perpetual adolescence. Despite her age, Phoebe, unlike Holden, has no desire to hold on to childhood and confronts Holden’s idea about being “the catcher in the rye” who saves kids. Phoebe corrects Holden’s memory of the Robert Burns poem: “It’s ‘If a body meet a body comin’ thro the rye’” (173). Holden’s desire to save children is in contrast to Phoebe’s understanding that one must move on; to her, “Allie is dead”, and people need to interact, not try to save something that is lost.

This brings us to the second point: “It is a people shooting hat”. Holden promotes that he “shoot[s] people with this hat” (22). He does - with wit, with sarcasm, with glib portrayal. To survive the hunt, Holden uses the hat as a protective shield of sarcasm and that allows him to remain immature and avoid the necessary interaction to grow up – the one Phoebe and others beg him to engage it. He ridicules everyone as “phony”. He criticizes all those who try to engage him: Carl Luce is a “flit”, Ackley is a “goddman moron”, Spencer is “old”, etc. Holden shoots down the advice of those who desire for him to grow up. When Mr. Antolini warns that he is for “some kind of terrible, terrible fall” (186), (perhaps off the cliff to adulthood), Holden does not concentrate, changes the subject, and ultimately, whether justified or not, dismisses the affection of Mr. Antolini as a “flitty pass” (189), Holden consistently and often consciously shoots down those trying to help.

So how does the hunt end? In the end, Phoebe returns the hat to Holden’s head, in a moment where she realizes Holden has more use for its protection than she does. Holden sits in the rain wearing his hat and muses: “My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way, but I got soaked anyway” (211-212). Despite all that Holden does, he invariably will grow up. Though he is happy for now, as “Phoebe ke[eps] going round and round” on the carrousel, the story ends with the protection and Holden broken. His defense and desire to reclaim and preserve his childhood is soaked.

Throughout the text, the motif of the red hunting hat contributes to the idea that one cannot hold on to childhood or protect oneself from the inevitability of maturing. The tragedy of this bildingsroman is Holden’s error in his worldview. He refuses to accept this inevitability and allows himself to be broken. The sadness of the end, as Holden sits soaked, is that he tried to hold on to what will always slip away.

Note: This is over four pages in length.

45 comments:

Ashley N. 4 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Walsh said...

Well, if it is any consolation, I wrote this and yes, I realize my many errors and imperfections. We will go through ways in class tomorrow to structure your essay around questions and build your assertions.

Plus, the conclusion of this essay is depressing in its own right.

Martin D 2 said...

I thought that this was a very good paper and I like how it is sort of conversative. Can we do that in our papers as well? Also, I was just wondering how long it took you to do this Mr. Walsh?

Martin D 2 said...

I thought that this was a very good paper and I like how it is sort of conversative. Can we do that in our papers as well? Also, I was just wondering how long it took you to do this Mr. Walsh?

Mr. Walsh said...

Yes, you are free to write with your own style, but you must do it well.

I planned out the questions first. It took me a little bit to find the quotes. It took me two hours or so to write a draft, then I realized I needed to tie it together. I didn't tie everything together perfectly and didn't (purposefully) proofread. Notice my errors as well.

Hillary D 2 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron G 2 said...

I like the first few sentences but they could do without the commas. I think they should put assertion at the top. Do not add that random sentence. Great use of text. Good way to use questions to help get the point across. NO, the beginning of paragraph three doesn’t work, fix it up. Good question at the end. I don’t like how they say “let us.” “How does the hat fit in?”, excellent. “how does the hat end?”, just used that, only good once.

At points it is great but then they push and try too hard and they go down hill.

-O sorry MR.Walsh, I just read the comments, I didn't know you wrote it.

Hillary D 2 said...

Even though you claimed your paper had errors, it was really well written.
There was a part when you said,
"The hat is off, and he is mature," and I thought, So everytime he didn't wear the hat, little by little maturity built up inside him.. Or the things he experienced while the hat was off were all lessons of maturity.
I never would've thought of this until I read your point.

I also like the tone.

Chloe C 2 said...

I see the effort of trying to imitate (insert author's name here)'s style, but I see more Mr. Walsh. Good job; you intigrated your own style of writing that flowed seamlessly into a colloquial style. The middle paragraphs seemed like you were going off onto tangents, though I could see you weren't when I finished reading. I would suggest introducing everything, as well as a brief tie-together near the end. The thesis is very clear, though I believe this is for our benefit only. The last paragraph was sad, but it had a sense of closure; very nice.

barbara j 2 said...

First I want to say that even thought we read the book I learned a lot more reading this. I like how you started out with all the things a hat can do and I notice that the assertion was completely at the end of the first paragraph. I never thought of doing it like that. You went in depth with your writing which means that you took time to reread some of the scenes in the book so that you could understand better and you took time to think before writing anything down. I will consider doing this for my writing. Oh and I loved how you made it your own style with all these questions and everything else.

Kimberly said...

I really like the structure of how this paper is written. Even though there are some mistakes, but I still see it as a great paper. The paper had supporting evidence from the book and from other short stories/packets. I actually liked how the first paragraph did not begin with the thesis statement. I liked how it build on from the hat to the thesis statement.

Ashley N. 4 said...

The tone in this paper is really personal and it engages the reader, I like that a lot. The questions asked aren't questions the reader would necessairly ask, but by bringing them up it causes the reader to wonder about the subject. The supporting evidence helped support the thesis and it concluded nicely.

Thanh N. 4 said...

The author provided important details to his essay that made it extrodinary. He/She used evidence that was relevent to their point. Also, you can notice their writing technique because it is unique, so they had their own voice in it. Other than that, everything just flowed so they kept it really interesting.

::HebaK:: 4 said...

I love the way the paper is written. It is easy flowing, comfortable, and to the point. I liked the two ways the quotes were set up; I didn't know that we could use full quotes like that. The use of the question made the reader wonder what the answer was. This type of writing style was not boring or bland, it helped me want to continue to read the paper.

::HebaK:: 4 said...

I love the way the paper is written. It is easy flowing, comfortable, and to the point. I liked the two ways the quotes were set up; I didn't know that we could use full quotes like that. The use of the question made the reader wonder what the answer was. This type of writing style was not boring or bland, it helped me want to continue to read the paper.

Katherine Z 4 said...

I lovd how almost in every paragraph you started it off with a question. The it follows off with an explanation that answers the question. I've never done that in my essays before because I didn't think that you could use qustions. I like the way that you start off the essay with how a hat fuctions in everyday life, it sets off the essay with some background knowledge of what a hat could symbolize in the story.

Elaine T 4 said...

I realy liked how the author had a strong assertion in the beginning and had a clear focus on his topic throughtout the whole text. I noticed that the author of this paper asked many questions in his text, answered them and these questions and answers lead him to more questions and more answers. By answering these questions, the author was able to back up his assertion topic and guide us readers to his point of view on the topic/motif. (I think those questions were part of the author's writing technique. It was probably how the author started out on his paper and it also gave the paper an informal kind of voice. (I felt like the author was talking to me about the paper and not just giving me all the facts and expecting me to come to the conclusion myself.) I really liked how the author guilded me throughout the paper with questions and answers that provided the evidence to why his assertion worked.

Kellie L 4 said...

I really like the way this paper was written because it wasn't hard to read. Also, I like how it wasn't too formal because it helped me understand the point that was trying to be made. Also, I liked how the paper was written in sequence because every piece of evidence went along with the one before. The questions asked were really interesting because it caught my attention. I also liked how organized the paragraphs were set up.

Lynn T. 4 said...

The writer analyzes the motif with a lot of details, and uses literay terms to descibe the meaning of the hat. I like how in the beginning, It does not immediately talk about the re hunting hat motiff, but it talks about hats in general.

Ngoc D. 4 said...

The author of the essay did a nice job and it is well written. All points are made clear. I can see the organization of this is well thought out but it's shaky at some point to me. The paragraph about Phoebe correcting Holden mistake about the song, to me, is like the ending but then it goes into him shooting, but it does make sense. Overall, the author did a nice job providing evidence and included assertions and get the reader involve in the essay by asking questions and answering them

Marissa G 4 said...

I liked how it started out with the functions of teh hat before even going into that it was a paper on a motif. Then went into wat a motif was, then started the expliation part. I now have a better understanding of what it ment to have little explications put into one big one. I liked how it sounded like a conversation.

Jen-T 4 said...

I thought this also was a great paper. I likd how you wrote it in your own style of writing with the questions even though i think that sometimes the questions at the beginning dont really make the paper "flow". I however,like he analysis part. You really went into detail and explained many things but it also made me wonder, if he gets everlasting childhood from Phoebe, what is he going to do when she matures and beomes an adult? Reading your paper gave me a lot of insite on the story and made me enjoy it more.

good job Walsh =]

laura b said...

I think the author of this paper did a fantastic job explaining what the red hat symbolizes to Holden. He uses the techniques of asking questions and answering them in every possible way. His explanations are full of understanding and they go to the minimum point of the questions. I though it was good how he explains what a hat is in the real world and makes comparisons to what it meant in the book. He uses a lot of evidence that supports all of his opinions. He uses details of real life and connects to Holden. The one think I liked most about the essay is when he talks about Holden’s brother Allie and his hair. He talks about the red hair and comparing it to the red hat, it was something that I never though about while reading the book.

Jonathan C. 4 said...

The paper was well written. He explained his postion and backed it up with a lot of evidence. Also, there was a lot of in-depth analysis that made it clear what the point he was trying to get across was. The paper flowed nicely and there was never a sudden change in topic, so it made it easier to read. It was really interesting, so interesting that I might just read it again when have free time.

Belinda L 4 said...

I liked how this paper uses not just the red hunting hat, but sort of includes all the other little related symboles to help prove the point and significance of the hunting hat. It targets the idea of Holden not letting go of Allie and the past, and how the hat symbolizes this. The author of this essay shows the idea of maturity first through the hat, and then goes further into the idea with other symboles, but in the end comes back to the hat and makes a conclusion of Holden's realization of growing up. I feel that the paper has a great tone on it. Although the concluding paragraph seems a little short and doesn't include all the pointes made in the paper.

Mat M. 4 said...

I personally like the writing style and how the author ties in the evidence. What I especially like is how the author builds up to the final question of how Holden ends his hunt. I think that the previous questions and points are what develop the meaning as a whole.

Steven E. 4 said...

The paper has a good flow to it. The end of each paragraph connects to the start of the next one. A lot of evidence is put into the paper. I don't know why it took him till the ninth paragraph to write how the hat fits in to the story. I think he could have put it in earlier.

will h 4 said...

i really liked this paper. it was written like a conversation and that made it really easy and enjoyable to read and understand. this paper is just like the one we read about the letter. were you trying to give it a similar format.

Victoria P. 4 said...

I enjoyed the tone of this essay because of the way it was similar to the ones Thomas Foster writes, from all of those excerpts you give us. The way that the questions were asked had me wondering, because I had never really taken them into consideration. It is well written, and gives much more evidence than just the red hat to conclude the motif. It brings in Allie and more back round information which kept me interested. It has a few mistakes, but I really liked the way you wrote it, and it makes me want to try to write so directly.

Amir Q. 4 said...

This is a very well written paper. It covers and sticks to it's topic, expands it and explains it in a very direct and easy to understand way.

Malik B. 4 said...

The author at the beginning uses short sentences to add to a single idea and I though it was more effective than just listing the roles using commas. I also liked how the author didn't just focus on the function of the hat to Holden, but its function and perception of the world. Less prominent symbols were used to further build on the hunting hat's purpose, which worked really well and tied the paper as well as the story together.

Andy T. 4 said...

I liked how this paper was written. The language was easy to read and the everything was supported with alot of text. It was very detailed and simple. The paragraphs were very well organized, going from order of events making it very simple and well written. It was a very good job.

Consuelo T 2 said...

I thought this an excellent paper. It had a great use of evidence. I like the two ways of using the quotes, it was really interesting. After reading this it really made me think about the hat in more depth. I feel like I got a lot out of that paper, and that I have a bigger understanding of the hunting hat. I think you did a good job writing like that guy, but I have to agree with Chloe it did sound more like you then the other guy. Also there was this one paragraph that talks about the weather/ducks, I didn't get it much. I didn't get how it related to the hat that much. But, I�m not sure, maybe it's just me, I might have not read it correctly.

Jessica F 2 said...

I really like this style of writing. This is the type of writing though that if you don't do it well it's horrible. But you did a great job writing this paper. I really like the idea of starting with a question and then answering through multiple paragraphs. I liked how it started with how a hat is used. It's kinda like the thought process you told us to go through before writing our paper and figuring out what our motifs mean. I also noticed there were alot of quotes from the book, which is good because it shows it is probually one of the most important motifs.

casey w. 4 said...

This paper reminded me about Thomas Foster's writing. I love the beginning of the paper when the author starts off with what a hat does. Or why people wear hats. Although, I liked The Catcher in the Rye I feel like I got more meaning out of this paper then I did the actual book.

“To survive the hunt, Holden uses the hat as a protective shield of sarcasm and that allows him to remain immature and avoid the necessary interaction to grow up – the one Phoebe and others beg him to engage it.”

I like this idea that you bring up Mr. Walsh, but this sentence is long and a little wordy. I understand more of what you mean when you say to shorten the sentences. Sometimes it is better to write clean cut sentences rather then just jamming everything into one. I also agree that although the ending was sad it spoke the truth. Nice job Mr. Walsh!

sandy j 2 said...

This was such a good paper. It didn't even start with 'the author suggests' and it made perfect sense. I always thought that was the sentence to build off of, in my idea if you don't write that sentence first, your paper has no meaning. I guess i was wrong. It first gave so many examples and how the hat is used in so many different ways. Then he explains how its a symbol and present an explanation for it. Another thing i found that was good was how the writer connected to his audience. It was like he was talking to someone. He was explaining to them what the hat was all about and how it was important to the text as a whole. Someone who never read the book before could get a preview of the important symbols, especially the hat because it's so important to Holden and the book. As for the errors, everyone makes them. One has errors, but the point is still srtong, good stance.

Trang T 2 said...

At first, I didn’t quite understand why we studied in class so much about motif and I usually got confused between motif and symbol. After I read this specific example, I realize that the red hat that Holden Caulfield often wears has more meanings than I had thought it was. I really like the style of the paper which I had never seen we’ve done this in class before. We get to ask questions and answer it and the author brings up clear evidences to help readers extend their mind to point to larger theme of the red hunting hat. I wish my paper could be well written like this…

Jeniffer M 2 said...

I liked the use of the text and how you can even begin to make out Mr. Walsh's own style of writing. For a paper that you didn't proofread, it was fairly good and motivational to read, and try to get my paper to look like that. It didn't feel like four pages though I'm sure that when we're forced to write our own, it will.

By the way, ouchies on Aaron's comments. :]

Jimmy v.2 said...

Some of it reminded me of when you told us about the guy who made topic starters short and to the point. (Like: Paper, what is it?) I think you said that it was hard to write like that, right? Your style kind of uses that.

I like how you start like that and then elaborate. Like everyone else, I thought it was good. Yet you still say that there are errors. Are you being humble or are we just blind?

DAvid T 2 said...

I like the paper very much. It sort of flowed for me. Does our paper have to be that long?

Jess L 2 said...

i really liked this essay, but I'm also kind of worried about our own essays. I don't think my motif has enough evidence or anything to write 4 pages about...

Mr. Walsh said...

To answer David and Jess's concerns, don't worry about length. I am not grading on length. I used those numbers as an outline, but some maybe shorter, some maybe longer.

I will help you along the way. I know you all can succeed!!! :)

Mr. Walsh said...

To answer David and Jess's concerns, don't worry about length. I am not grading on length. I used those numbers as an outline, but some maybe shorter, some maybe longer.

I will help you along the way. I know you all can succeed!!! :)

Hillary D 2 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
emily said...

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