Book essay: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a modern novel focused on identity. The novel focuses around the life of a confused young man named Holden who is lost in his adolescents and struggling to find his way into adulthood. The Sound and The Fury written by William Faulkner, is a novel that takes place in Mississippi and follows the decline of the Compson family. The construction of the novel is split into four different parts, where each one is narrated by a different character. Benjy, Jason, and Quentin are the three brothers of the Compson family and narrate a section, leaving the fourth section narrated from the perception of third-person. While both stories have their differences, they still correlate to one another because they both face the conflicts that are in relation to the dysfunctional structure of the family.

Holden Claufield begins the story of The Catcher in the Rye by wandering around the streets of New York after being kicked out of another preparatory boarding school. His emotional state was still suffering from his brother’s death, being absent from his family, and living in a world that is full of ‘phonies’. While in the city Holden goes to bars, reaches out to an ex-girlfriend, invites a prostitute over, and meets up with his little sister Phoebe. Through his journey around New York, Claufield undergoes his own personal journey on an internal level. By using the city as a distraction from his struggles at school, he fully drowns into a world that he learns is the most perplexing, and that is adulthood. The relationship that Holden has to his family is very weak but can be understood through their absence. The way Holden views the world and his cynical disposition can all relate to the lack of structure in his family growing up. This lack of family structure can also be seen in the plot of The Sound and the Fury. In fact, the Compson family was actually reflected amongst people in their society as the most significant in Mississippi. However, the declination that occurred in their family diminished their fortune, community prominence, and their property. Mr. and Mrs. Compson are both victims of having flaws, with him being an alcoholic and she being histrionically anxious about her health. The couple ends up abandoning the responsibilities of raising their kids to the help that work for them. Of the children, Quentin feels that it’s under his responsibility to help care for his siblings. Jason plays the role of the bully and often snoops for his mother on his siblings. Benjy is the third brother and because he is challenged he cannot comprehend what goes on around him. Caddy is the only daughter of the Compson family and is a stubborn girl who is very independent. The different reflections told by the brothers are accounted by thoughts, exchanges, and reminiscences. All of their reflections are on the concentration of Caddy because of the absence of their mother. The tumble of their family is shaped through their different stories and outlines the faults which cause their dysfunctionality.

In Catcher and the Rye the primary thematic conflict revolves around the alienation that Holden uses, which in the novel both defends and harms him. When his brother Allie died he had to grieve and deal with immense emotional ache. Consequently, he protects himself by using alienation so that he doesn’t make relations to people and have the risk of getting hurt by them. However, the alienation also causes Holden to become depressed and lonesome when he suffers from the lack of support in his life. He attempts to connect with Sally, Mr. Spencer, and Carl Luce, but retracts these attempts due to his fears and pushes them away through criticisms or cynical expressions. Thus Holden puts himself through this endless series of personal obliteration which projects the story’s primary theme of alienation and isolation. Holden’s struggles weren’t all in relation to society but also had to do with time. In the midst of Holden’s journey of adolescence into the adult world he realizes that the destructive force is time when his brother dies from cancer. As a result, Holden’s reaction is the desire to make time stop all together; which can be seen when he enjoys visiting the Natural History Museum, for ‘everything stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move.’ This theme is also relevant in The Sound and the Fury where Faulkner greatly develops the theme of time through the construction and characters of the novel. Time is handled very differently by each of the main characters throughout the various sections of the novel. Benjy’s section is the first and because of being challenged he has a very faulty perception of time. He is ultimately incapable of being able to comprehend the purpose of anything due to his thoughts fluctuating from the past to the present and going all over the place. The lack of comprehension causes the absence of any emotional connection to time, which leaves Benjy liberated from the concept of time. Whereas his brother, Quentin, faces the obstruction that his memories cause upon his coping with the current time. Quentin’s main conflict with time lies is in his inability to acknowledge life’s inescapable changes. Consequently his ultimate fate is committing suicide, from trying to escape the changes of life. Jason is focused on living life in the present time and his behavior is to show for it. Unlike reacting towards time in the past as Quentin does, Jason acts upon situations as they presently occur. Another view of time that is presented in the novel is that of a historical perception, by Dilsey in the final section. With her faith and taking in her own life experiences and the Compson’s life experiences she represents the view of time being eternal. Faulkner uses the novel’s construction to structure the theme through the enfolding recounts over a span of four days.
One of the most significant literary tools used by Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye is tone and Holden’s point of view narration. Salinger’s tone throughout the story helps the reader understand his position regarding the novel’s subjects and theme. In the novel Holden carries himself with a disposition that is negative and cynical. Holden primarily takes his cynical behavior out on the people around him, calling them out to all be phonies. However, past Holden’s behavior there is another element to the story where the tone can be recognized and that is in the author’s writing style. Salinger is using the story and writing as a communication vent for his feelings, which ultimately allows the reader to have a deeper comprehension of the tone through his feelings. This point of view perspective is also seen in the writing style of The Sound and the Fury, for each section is a dissection of each character’s thoughts and mind. There is no separation amongst the reader and the narrator, which creates a significant amount of intimacy as all of the character’s struggles, fixations, and drives become revealed. Another great aspect that comes to play by the point of view narration is the tones of the novel and how they individually correlate to different time periods and the characters narrating them. For after reading each section, there is an added experience of the Compson family that contributes to the story as a whole. The novel changing the narrator at various times throughout, allows several experiences to be seen from different eyes and different tones. The tone presented in The Catcher in the Rye, is also seen through Jason’s section and in the analysis of his character as well. The similarity in tone is evidently witnessed through Jason’s remark ‘Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say.’ While the narrative done by Jason is very sharp it also lacks a realm of deep emotion, and he is simply portrayed as being a cynical man with a bitter mindset.

The role of the late 1940’s time period in the Catcher in the Rye is based directly after World War II and without doubt adds to the theme of the novel. The theme of isolation correlates to America post-war, and the innocence lost across the country. The setting’s location also relates to the plot and development of the novel. Holden’s story begins at the boarding school he recently got expelled from, where he considers all of its inmates to be phonies. Holden attempts to isolate himself from the ‘phonies’ of the world by trying out a new location when he takes his journey around New York City. By visiting various bars, parks, and hotels he is searching for people in the world that he thinks he will actually enjoy. Setting also plays an important role in The Sound and the Fury, and is one of its most significant elements throughout the story. The novel takes place in the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi after the Civil War. The town is racial diverse and several of the African American’s make recollections of slavery. Setting is used as an element in the novel which creates a symbol of the southern era. The Compson family used to be valued in society, with their property being vast and magnificent. However, this change greatly relates to the family’s demise on a symbolic level.

The two novels both share the same elements which give their stories such significance and central meaning. While their themes and conflict have their differences, they are still built using alike structures, tones, and writing style. Conflict in general relating to family or simply growing up is presented through both and relates to real life situations which many readers could find themselves relating too as well. They project the tone of realism and the identity of finding your way through life’s struggles primarily those that correlate with the people one surrounds them self with. Salinger and Faulkner found a way to address situations using their own feelings and perceptions which is what creates a powerful force and affect while reading The Catcher in the Rye and The Sound and the Fury.

Source: Essay UK - http://xbmm43.com/essays/english-literature/book-essay-the-catcher-in-the-rye/


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