People often use objects to highlight their individuality. In the novel, Holden displays his longing for isolation as he wears the hunting hat in order to make his appearance unique. The hunting hat first appears in the novel when Holden is in his room while the whole school is at a football game. He had just come back from managing a fencing tournament in New York where he bought the hat. “It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks. I saw it 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” (18). After losing the equipment, the team eventually ostracizes him, making him feel very lonely. He mentions that he wears the hat backwards, which is an incorrect way of wearing it, this showing his uniqueness. Also the hat is bright red and it stands out, but Holden will not wear it outside even though he does not care what people think. Later on that day, Stradlater asks Holden to write a composition for him while he is on a date, but he could not get started since his roommate, Ackley would not leave him alone. “Anyway, finally I had to come right out and tell him that I had to write a composition for Stradlater, and that he had to clear the hell out, so I could concentrate. He finally did, but he took his time about it, as usual. After he left, I put on my pajamas and bathrobe and my old hunting hat, and started writing the composition” (37). Holden isolates himself from Ackley by saying he is a pushing him away so that he can be alone to focus and start Stradlater’s composition. He does not seem comfortable wearing his hat around him or other people because he has never completely opened up to anyone he knows.
The red hunting hat exhibits Holden’s appeal for self-protection through alienating himself. He is careful about wearing the hat in front of people he knows, like in New York, “I took my old hunting hat out of my pocket while I walked, and put it on. I knew I wouldn't meet anybody that knew me, and it was pretty damp out” (122). Strangers surround Holden as he walks down the street, which reveals his comfort level being high when he is around strangers, but so low around those who know him. He becomes less self conscious about his appearance to those who do not know him because he knows he will not encounter them again. The hat again, is bright red, and most of the time worn backwards.This separates him from the real world because he does not wear the hat normally, alienating himself from the “norms” of society. Norms meaning that people should appear and act the way a normal person would in society. When Holden visits his parent’s house to see Phoebe, his younger sister, he gives her the hunting hat. “Then I took my hunting hat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her. She likes those crazy kinds of hats. She didn’t want to take it, but I made her” (180). Holden does this to protect her from the world of adulthood. He is