Holden buys the hat immediately after he has lost the fencing foils: "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." Interestingly, Freud performed a dream analysis involving a hat with a similar appearance, and he immediately associated the symbol as phallic: "No doubt the hat was a male genital organ, with its middle-piece sticking up and its two side-pieces hanging down" ( 361).
Yet both Bryan and Strauch omit the psychological crisis that most informs Holden’s actions throughout the novel: his castration complex.
The concept of the "castration complex," originally developed by Sigmund Freud as a literal fear of castration and later reinterpreted as a metaphoric sense or fear of loss by Jacques Lacan, clearly applies to Holden.
The hat replaces the foils and somewhat restores his castrated self.
The loss of the foils is countered by the gain of the hat; as such, his masculine potency is at least partially restored.Holden’s appropriation of the hat as compensation for his castration, then, conflates both ideas: the hat represents aggression and heroism, two traits implicit in his sense of manhood.The timing of Holden’s hunting hat purchase is important.Holden’s most significant obsession is the loss, or feared loss, of his manhood, as his frequent digressions reveal.His metaphoric castration begins with his expulsion from school: "So I got the ax.lends itself particularly well to a psychoanalytic read because Holden himself is in a psychoanalytic session for the entirety of the novel; however, this therapist is neither seen nor described to the reader.In fact, Holden only mentions the doctor in 2nd person references, and for practical purposes the reader himself takes the place of the psychoanalyst from the very first line: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." In effect, the reader becomes the "you" Holden refers to and is thus responsible for analyzing Holden’s words for their psychological significance.As Holden reveals more of his exploits, he is acting out the Freudian "talking cure" by transferring his psychical tensions to the reader as psychotherapist.The reader, in analyzing Holden’s psychological state, is dependent upon his vacillations in speech, his obsessions, and digressions to determine his latent anxieties.Interestingly, while the reader is interpreting Holden’s speech for psychological information, Holden himself is interpreting the speech of those around him.When discussing his Oral Expression class, Holden notes with disgust his teacher’s strategy to keep students on task by yelling "digression" whenever a student strayed from the main point: "The trouble with me is, I interest you most." By following his line of reasoning, the reader must unravel Holden’s own digressions and obsessions in order to determine their significance.