Huck Vs Holden Essay Research Paper

Huck Vs Holden Essay, Research Paper J. D. Salinger s Catcher in the Rye Compared to Mark Twain s Huckleberry Finn All famous American authors have written novels

Huck Vs Holden Essay, Research Paper

J. D. Salinger s Catcher in the Rye Compared to Mark Twain s

Huckleberry Finn All famous American authors have written novels

using a variety of characters, plots, and settings to illustrate important

themes. Throughout literary history many of the same themes have

been stressed in different novels. In J. D. Salinger s The Catcher in the

Rye and Mark Twain s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, each

author writes about the common theme of coming of age. The two

novels were written more than half a century apart about two boys

who seem like complete opposites, yet they bear striking

resemblances to each other. Each author wrote his book depicting

settings from his own past and based the plots on personal

experiences. While the two novels are in different times and places,

they have remarkably similar characters, plots, and themes. To

completely understand the two novels, it is necessary to know about

each author s background and how he got the ideas to write them. J.

D. Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City. His father

was a Jewish importer, his mother a Scott-Irish housewife, and he had

one older sister. His parents were divorced in September 1947 before

he began his career as an author. He grew up in Manhattan and

attended public school until he was enrolled in Valley Forge Military

Academy, where he had trouble adjusting. Later he attended New York

University, Ursinus College, and Columbia University. Before he

became a writer he worked as an entertainer on a Swedish cruise ship

in the Caribbean and had a four-year military career as a staff sergeant

in World War II ( Salinger CA 332-334). Salinger began writing

popularly in the late 1940 s and 50 s in the Post-Modernist period.

Authors of this period showed despair, paranoia, and irrational

violence due to threatening implications of the world after WWII. In

this era, Salinger wrote his most creative works such as Catcher in the

Rye and Nine Stories. These books show the dilemma of people trying

to come to terms with either a self-created or contemporary hell with a

common theme of coming of age or loss of innocence. Recurring

incidents of adulterated emotion can be seen in many of Salinger s

works, and he believes that is the history of human trouble and the

poetry of love which explains many controversial events in his works

( Salinger CA 334-335). In most of his works, it is obvious that

Salinger wrote about his background and personal experiences

although he never dealt with adultery. Most of his fictional characters

grew up in New York and were of mixed parentage. For example,

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

up in New York City and had a hard time adjusting to life at school.

Also, Pencey Prep, the school Holden went to, was modeled from

Valley Forge Military Academy ( Salinger CA 333). Salinger s work

was very controversial, especially his characters and his language.

Some critics concentrate on his characters, saying that the heroes in

his works are self-righteous and self-centered misfits, indicating

immaturity in Salinger s vision. He also brought back the concept of

vernacular dialect and idiomatic phrases previously unused in

American literature but popular in everyday speech. Some critics

object to his use of foul language, while others feel that his use of

speech is a brilliant technique to help shape his theme. James Miller

says he is one of the most controversial writers yet, and he is greeted

with praise as well as condemnation ( Salinger CLC Vol. 1 299).

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835 to

Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton. He grew up in Hannibal,

Missouri, a frontier town, where he got his richest sources for his

writing. Between 1853 and 1857 he was a journeyman printer in St.

Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, and other places around the U.S. In

1857 he went to the Mississippi River, became a river pilot s

apprentice and won his license shortly afterward. He piloted until 1861

when the Civil War broke out, and he served in the Confederacy for a

short period of time. In 1862 he was released from the army and

became a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise in Nevada

where he discovered that he was quite the humorist. He took the pen

name Mark Twain from riverboat terms in 1863 and worked for

newspapers until 1869 when some of his stories were collected,

revised, and published. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon and began

writing books and novels. He wrote many classics such as The

Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and

The Gilded Age. However, he went bankrupt in 1894 because of bad

investments, and became pessimistic in his work ( Samuel Langhorne

Clemens 1-2). Salinger and Twain lead similar lives and used similar

techniques in writing style. Salinger s Catcher in the Rye and Twain s

Huckleberry Finn have much in common just as Salinger and Twain did

in their lives. Both novels use a first person narrator, vernacular, and

autobiographical settings, but the most significant similarity is the

common theme of coming of age or loss of innocence. Both main

characters are adolescents, runaways from society, seeking

independence, growth, and stability in their lives (Lamazoff 1).

Published in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was the first of Salinger s

works to catch the reader s eye and help him gain popularity. Holden

Caulfield s rebellion against fake people or phonies shows the

rejection of some adult qualities, leading into the major themes:

innocence and coming of age ( Salinger CA 332). The plot is not very

extravagant, but Salinger used many other aspects to convey his point.

After Holden was kicked out of Pencey Prep he was planning to head

west and start over, but he first went to New York City to say good-bye

to his little sister, Phoebe. During his time in New York he participated

in humorous events involving an acquaintance, some nuns, a

prostitute, a cross dresser, and an admired teacher each with their

own message helping Holden realize his false dreams. Holden said he

wanted to be like a catcher in the rye to keep all the children,

symbolizing innocence, from falling off of the cliff, symbolizing coming

of age. This is a gesture of selfless love coming from his confusion and

grief ( Salinger CA 336). Holden is a double-minded, self-critical,

frantic adolescent making his first movement into the adult world, and

he realizes that the values of the world can be judged as stated by

David Galloway ( Salinger CLC Vol. 3 445). Frederick Gwynn and

Joseph Boltner believe Holden s quest was to preserve an innocence

that is in danger of disappearing. This is the innocence of a spotless

childhood in the ordinary involvements of life. First he rebelled against

society, then he was inspired by his honesty against phoniness, and he

finally realized what a small role he actually played ( Salinger CLC

Vol. 1 295). Harvey Breit says Holden figured this out in the climax of

the novel when Phoebe, Holden s ten-year-old sister that he wants to

keep pure and innocent, was riding the carousel in Central Park. He

watched in the rain and his dream shattered because he could do

nothing to prevent any coming of age, and at this is the time Holden

passed into adulthood ( Salinger CLC Vol. 56 318). The irony of this

story is that Holden could not even prevent himself from falling off

the cliff much less save others ( Salinger CA 336). Mark Twain s

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884 shortly

almost ten years after its prelude The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

( Samuel Langhorne Clemens 2). The setting of this novel is on the

Mississippi River, where Twain once lived, and the plot of this story is

like the rural version of Catcher in the Rye. Huck escaped from his

father and took a raft down the river along with a black slave, Jim,

trying to reach their freedom. Along this journey Huck and Jim

encountered many controversies such as the Grangerford/Shepherdson

feud, the king and duke, and the events on the Phelps farm. Walter

Allen wrote that much like Holden Caulfield, first Huck rebelled against

his society, then he was inspired by his honesty against sham, and

finally he gained a sympathetic awareness of his melancholy role in

life. Huck s attitude toward coming of age was ambiguous; he

intervened in the activities of the adult world and made moral choices

that repudiated that world ( Salinger CLC Vol. 1 298). In John

Aldrigde s comparison he wrote that both books rely on the concept of

innocence to show how their main characters reach their coming of

age. In The Catcher in the Rye innocence is a compound of urban

intelligence, juvenile contempt, and New Yorker sentimentality. The

symbol of innocence in this book is the children of the world,

especially Phoebe, which are continuously challenged by phonies ,

profanity, and adult life. In this novel, innocence calls for genuineness

and sincerity in a dull and loveless world. In Huckleberry Finn,

innocence is a compound of frontier ignorance, juvenile delinquency,

and petty heroism. The symbols of innocence are the raft and the river.

The challenging factors of innocence in this book are thugs, thieves,

feuds, and other dangers on shore that call for narrow escapes. The

raft represents innocence because that is how Huck and Jim make

their narrow escapes from the dangers of the shore, and the river

because its time, faith, and continuity, move endlessly and dependably

beside and between the temporary problems of men. In Huck Finn,

innocence calls for escape from violence because innocence and the

world of violence are seriously and effectively opposed ( Salinger

CLC Vol. 56 323). When Huck headed down the river with Jim to seek

freedom, he was actually seeking a new home free from the injustices

of his old life. Just like Huck, Holden too was seeking a new home

where he could have a life without the pain and disillusionment that

comes with becoming involved with anything life has to offer. Both

Huck and Holden encountered tests for them to pass on their way to

adulthood. For Huck the tests were mostly physical, but the tests that

Holden had to overcome were primarily metaphorical dangers created

by the loss of individuality, accepted values, and self-reliant

intellectuality (Branch Mark Twain and J. D. Salinger 3). Not only

are the two books similar in their themes, but they also share other

common writing devices. They have similar comic irony, informal

language, picaresque structure, anti-phony themes, and both boys

represent the average American boy at different times (Branch

Salinger: A Critical and Personal Portrait 5). S. N. Behrman wrote

that Holden and Huck are neither comical, nor are they marked by

hatred or contempt of mankind; they just repudiate mankind s faults.

They always pay attention to what is happening whether involved or

not. The two novels are one-way journeys from holy innocence to the

enlightenment that the world offers. Both works are concerned with

the problems that people were facing at the times they were written.

And finally, they both have been repeatedly banned and restricted

because of the use of questionable language that people use in

everyday speech ( Salinger CLC Vol. 56 321). The Catcher in the Rye

and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have strikingly similar plots,

characters, and themes even though they were written in different

time periods and settings. Their primary similarity is the resemblance

between Huck and Holden as they lose their youthful innocence and

grow up. Huck tries to escape injustice to gain freedom floating down

the Mississippi River on his raft, and Holden tries to escape the

phoniness he found in the adult world to gain a pleasant life. Both

boys realize in the end that they play minor roles in life and loss of

innocence is inevitable in the emergence of adulthood. In J. D.

Salinger s The Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain s The Adventures

of Huckleberry Finn both authors stress the themes of coming of age

and loss of innocence to prove the point that everyone grows up and

passes into adulthood. They show that this is a natural and

unavoidable part of life.