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Copmparing Catcher In The Rye And Pygmalion

And Their Themes Essay, Research Paper Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Pygmalion and the Themes They Represent In J. D. Salinger?s novel The Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden Caulfield,

And Their Themes Essay, Research Paper

Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Pygmalion and the

Themes They Represent In J. D. Salinger?s novel The

Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden Caulfield,

muses at one point on the possibility of escaping from the

world of confusion and ?phonies? while George Bernard

Shaw?s main character of Pygmalion, Eliza Dolittle,

struggles to become a phony. The possible reason for this

is that they both come from opposite backgrounds. Holden

is a young, affluent teenager in 1950?s America who

resents materialism and Eliza Dolittle is a young, indigent

woman who is living in Britain during the late 1800?s trying

to meet her material needs and wants. These two seemingly

opposite characters do in fact have something in common:

they, like every other person, are in a constant pursuit of

happiness. This commonality is the basis for the themes

these two stories present. Some of these themes go

unconsidered and this leads to many misunderstandings in

the world. This is why Pygmalion and Catcher in the Rye

are not just stories but, in fact, lessons that are presented in

their themes. These themes teach that being middle or

upper class does not guarantee happiness, treating others

with good manners and equality are important, and

pronunciation and terminology can ?put you in your place?

in terms of class. Throughout the world?s history,

pronunciation and the way a language is spoken indicates

one?s place in society. This is quite apparent in Pygmalion.

Eliza is a classic victim of being ?put into her place? based

on the way she speaks. She goes to Professor Higgins in

hope that he will give her lessons on how to speak in a

more refined. She says she wants ?to be a lady in a flower

shop stead of sellin at the corner of Tottenham Court

Road. But they won?t take me unless I can talk more

genteel? (23). This is precisely why she comes to Henry

Higgins. He knows quite a bit about the study of speech. In

fact, he is a professor of phonetics. He can ?pronounce one

hundred thirty vowel sounds? and ?place any man within six

miles? of their homes (15). Sometimes he can even place

them within two streets of their homes. When Eliza hears

this, she decides to take advantage of Higgins? ability and

take lessons from him. She learns a new form of speech

and this newfound way of speaking helps to pass her off as

a duchess at an opera. Holden?s speech also manages to

categorize him: not class-wise, but rather age-wise and

personality-wise. He captures the informal speech of an

average intelligent adolescent. This speech includes both

simple description and cursing. For example, in the

introduction, Holden says, ?They?re nice and all,? as well

as, ?I?m not going to tell you my whole goddam

autobiography or anything? (1). The term ?nice? is an

extremely broad term Holden uses to characterize his

parents. He does not want to disrespect them yet he does

not feel right praising them either. This opening to Holden?s

story shows Holden?s unwillingness to share his views.

However, this gradually changes and he opens up. He uses

the terms ?and all? and ?or anything? regularly throughout

the novel and because not everyone speaks like this, these

terms make Holden?s speech unique. Holden also feels he

has to confirm what he is saying because he does not quite

believe himself. For example, he says, ?I?m a pacifist, if you

want to know the truth? (26). When Holden is particularly

angry, he swears more often. He says ?That guy Morrow is

about as sensitive as a god dam toilet seat? (55). His

inability to properly communicate without have to rely on

profanity to express himself shows Holden as a boy

suffering from what some might call ?teenage angst.?

Holden, however, rarely shows his angst publicly. For the

most part, he is composed in front of people; especially

adults and strangers. If annoyed about something, he

manages to say what he thinks in such a polite, disguised

way, the people he talks to do not even notice. Holden

believes in manners and treating everyone equally. Before

Holden leaves for Christmas Break, Mr. Spencer invites

him to his house and asks about what the headmaster, Dr.

Thurmer, said to him. Holden replies that Dr. Thurmer

spoke of life being a game, and that one should play it

according to the rules (8). Holden shows no animosity

about Dr. Thurmer?s speech. He accepts it as part of the

educator?s duty even though he knows that life is only a

game if you are on the right side, where all the ?hot-shots?

are. Mr. Spencer also lectures and proceeds to go through

Holden?s history exam with him. Holden did poorly both in

class and on the exam and feels guilty because Mr.

Spencer is infatuated with history. Holden tells his teacher

that he enjoys listening to his lectures in class but he didn?t

care much for history because he ?doesn?t want to hurt his

feelings? (11). Robert Ackley, the boy living in the room

next to Holden and Ward Stradlater, Holden?s roommate

at Pencey Prep, are seemingly exact opposites of each

other. Ackley is a boring, homely loner while Stradlater is

an exiting, handsome athlete. However, Holden sees them

as being quite similar. Primarily, they are both slobs.

Ackley is a blatant slob: ?He has lousy teeth [?] they

always looked mossy and awful? and ?he had a lot of

pimples (19) while Stradlater is a ?secret slob. He always

looked all right, but you should?ve seen the razor he shaved

himself with [?.] rusty as hell and full of lather and hairs?

(27). They are also uncaring and self-absorbed. For

example, Stradlater does not care about Holden?s feelings

for Jane Gallagher. After the two fight about her, Holden

goes to Ackley?s room to talk. Ackley keeps telling Holden

to be quiet and go to sleep even though Holden always

listens to his problems. Holden also condemns a former

headmaster who is especially courteous to well-dressed,

well-to-do parents and less courteous, to less sophisticated

and powerful parents. This disgusts Holden and he resents

that someone he is supposed to respect is such a prime

example of the materialistic society he lives in. Eliza also

believes that all people should be treated equally. Including

herself, she greatly dislikes the patronizing way people of

low-class society are treated by people of high-class

society. In an attempt to equal herself with others in

society, Eliza wants to take lessons on how to ?talk more

genteel? (23). Even though she has virtually no money, she

insists to Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering that she has

?come to have lessons, I am. And pay for em too: make no

mistakes? (23). She does not believe that she should be

given any special considerations just because she cannot as

readily afford the lessons as others. These lessons, she

believes, will change her life and she will then be a happier

person. In the beginning of Pygmalion, Eliza is a young

low-class woman selling flowers on the street corner so

that she can make enough money to survive. Even though

this is the only way of living she knows, Eliza sees that there

is more out there and she does not have to be a low-class

woman forever. She wants more out of life and will not

allow herself to be stomped on by others. She is a very

proud person and when Henry Higgins orders his maid,

Mrs. Pearce, to ?take all of her clothes off and burn them,?

Eliza replies angrily, ?you?re no gentleman, you?re not, to

talk of such things. I?m a good girl, I am? (27). The burning

of her old clothes marks the beginning of a series of

changes for Eliza. In the hopes of achieving a ?better? life in

high-class society, she must say good-bye to everything she

knows and this she does with mixed emotions. After her

transformation, though, she discovers that life is not as

wonderful as she thought it would be. Eliza realizes that

so-called ?proper? people have problems as well. Now

that she has achieved her goal, she does not know what

she is going to do with her life. She does have secret hopes

of marrying Henry Higgins, however, but these hopes are

destroyed during a fight in which he reveals to her that he

has no intentions of marrying her. He tells her she ?might

marry, you know. You see Eliza, all men are, not confirmed

old bachelors like me and the Colonel. Most men are the

marrying sort (poor devils)? (77). After this realization hits,

Eliza leaves Professor Higgins? home. Soon after, she gets

involved with Freddy Eynford Hill, a poor but classy,

intelligent gentleman. He is clearly in love with Eliza and

they marry. From this point on, they live a simple life,

working in their own flower shop. Throughout her

transformation, Eliza loses sight of her original goal which is

to own a flower shop. She begins to think she needs more

to b happy. Ironically, however, at the point in her life when

she has the most materially, is the point she is unhappiest.

This is not to say that she resents all that she has learned

because now she realizes that achieving her original goal is

all she needs. Holden presents this theme in a different way

than Eliza. At the beginning of the novel, he states that he

does not want to explain ?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 king of crap (1). Even though he comes from

an affluent family from NYC, he has problems of his own.

He does not live a free and easy lifestyle, as some would

expect. In fact, the life he leads could typically be expected

by society to be that of someone of a lower class. For

example, he is repeatedly expelled from schools for poor

achievement. In an attempt to deal with his latest expulsion,

he leaves school a few days prior to the end of term, and

goes to New York to ?take a vacation? before returning

home to deal with his parents. Throughout his journey

home, he describes bouts of deep depression, impulsive

spending and erratic behaviour prior to his nervous

breakdown. Despite his material wealth, Holden does not

appreciate what he has; he feels guilty. For example, his

roommate at Elkton Hills, Dick Slagee had very

inexpensive suitcases. ?He used to keep them under the

bed, instead of on the rack, so that nobody would see them

standing next to mine. It depressed holy hell out of me, and

I kept wanting to throw mine out or something, or even

trade with him? (108). Holden is a prime example that all

people are human beings; one is not any better than another

based on which position in society they hold. He is not

pretentious because of his wealth, but actually, if a

comparison of the two is going to be made, Holden is of a

higher class than Eliza but he leads a more melancholy life

than she. Therefore, wealth does not create happiness.

These two authors, J .D. Salinger and George Bernard

Shaw have created two stories that are effective in many

different ways. They are not only great literary pieces of

work written with great intelligence but they are also geared

toward the average reader. This method of creating a story

that virtually anyone can read and find interest in is a great

way to attract readers. When readers are attracted, the

authors? messages get across much more clearly and to a

larger number of people. When Catcher in the Rye and

Pygmalion were written, the authors had the same themes

in mind. These themes provoke thought and when thought

is provoked, many good things can happen. For example,

people can realize what they are doing wrong and change

their ways. As these stories show, being middle or upper

class does not guarantee happiness, being well mannered

and treating people equally is important, and people should

not always be judged based on the way they speak. If

people read these stories and realize that they are not just

great literary works but also important messages, much

more can be learned than the mechanics of writing. If

people begin to take these themes and apply them to

everyday life, these stories could be considered more than

just literature

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