Analysis of the Features of “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and “Novel” by Arthur Rimbaud
People rebel for a cause. In the book “The Catcher in the Rye” , the protagonist, Holden Caulfield is living in a school called Pencey Prep. Holden is failing all of his classes except English, and he often curses and smokes cigarettes in his dorm. One of Holden’s main problems in life is the death of his brother Allie. Allie, who died of leukemia 3 years prior to the events of the book, was the only person who deeply understood Holden. When Allie died, Holden broke all of the windows in his garage while breaking his own hand. Holden even states that he tried to break his family’s station wagon, but his hand was broken. This event shows that Holden really cared about Allie and that his death had a huge impact on his life. The death of Allie created a fear for Holden, Holden became afraid of change. Holden himself stated that Allie was very mature for his age and very smart in the quote “He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent.” (p. 21). The way Holden sees change is the more you grow, the closer to death you find yourself. In the poem “Novel” by Arthur Rimbaud, the narrator talks about drinking and walking around. The narrator is having fun and is in tune with the environment. A quote that supports this is “At times the air is so scented that we close our eyes,” Other lines in the stanza also support this idea. In the next section, the narrator talks about his/her surroundings and how he feels. He is interrupted by a sudden kiss and starts to tremble like a small insect. In the next section, the narrator starts to talk to himself in his mind.
The narrator uses the word ‘you’ not to the reader, but to himself to think about the things he is seeing, for example the attractive girl. The narrator was probably kissed by the attractive girl and now he is thinking to himself. She is probably not supposed to see the narrator because of her father. The line “Under the shadow of her father’s terrible collar …” proves this idea. The narrator is hesitant when kissing her which is proved by the line “And as she finds you incredibly naïve,” The narrator is most likely afraid of what will happen next if he continues with the girl. He is probably afraid that something would happen between him and her father, so he becomes afraid of the change about to occur. “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Novel” shares a very similar characteristic. Holden is afraid of change because his brother Allie died and he believes that growing up will lead to death and ultimately nothing good will come out of it. The narrator in “Novel” is also afraid of change because he is hesitant when he is kissing the girl. The narrator also drinks beer and has a good time walking around saying that he isn’t serious because he’s 17. Both Holden and the narrator are afraid of change and coming of age.
People who usually have trouble accepting change often have trouble accepting other people. In “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, Holden looks down upon many people, sometimes even when he doesn’t know them. He refers to these people as ‘phonies’. The relationship between Holden and Jane was just friendly, in Jane’s point of view. Holden had a most likely secret crush on her, but didn’t have the guts to tell her. Even when Stradlater was dating her, he thought of calling her up but he didn’t in the end because Holden doesn’t have the guts to admit his true feelings to her, much less to talk to her. Holden makes up an excuse about not being in the mood, just to have a reason not to call her up. The quote that proves this idea is “The only reason I didn’t do it was because I wasn’t in the mood.” (p. 34). By calling Jane up, Holden thought that things would change and so would his relationship with Jane, especially after the fight with Stradlater. He was possibly afraid that Stradlater told Jane about the fight and that he was either too embarrassed to talk to her or Stradlater told a tall tale and made Holden seem like the bad guy. In “Novel” by Arthur Rimbaud, the narrator starts to hesitate when kissing the girl. She’s attractive and she’s kissing him but the narrator is afraid. The reason he is afraid is because of change. If he goes through and kisses the girl, things might happen and the girl’s father might catch them. The girl’s father is probably protective of her. The line that suggests this is “Under the shadow of her father’s terrible collar . . .” The father is probably the type that doesn’t want boys to come near his daughter. The narrator’s lifestyle seems to be happy and frivolous, especially because he mentions that seventeen year olds don’t take things seriously and he mentions beer, which probably means he likes to hang out and party. The two lines that support this idea are “We aren’t serious when we’re seventeen” and “…to hell with beer and lemonade,” In both works, both Holden and the narrator have a relationship with the opposite sex. They’re both in love with the other person, or at least find them attractive, but they’re afraid of what will happen next. In the end, both the narrator and Holden are afraid of change, their actions might change the relationships between the women (in Holden’s case) or their actions might put an end to a free roaming lifestyle where you can do anything you want and not go into a long term commitment (in the narrator’s case).
Sometimes people want to do something in a way they want they want to do it. In “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden talks about sex multiple times. He even calls himself a sex maniac and recalls multiple times when he almost had sexual intercourse with a girl, but failed. For example, he ranted about how on double dates, when the two couples are in the car, the girl in the front always looks to the back to see what’s going on. Holden sees this as the reason why he hasn’t lost his virginity yet. Sometime later, Holden decides to hire a prostitute. After she pulls her dress over her head, Holden begins to feel peculiar and chickens out. He decides to just talk to Sunny because he is too nervous to have sex with her, with it being a sudden moment and all. The quote that proves this is “I certainly felt peculiar when she did that. I mean she did it so sudden and all. I know you’re supposed to feel pretty sexy when somebody gets up and pulls their dress over their head, but I didn’t. Sexy was about the last thing I was feeling.” (p. 51).
In “Novel”, the narrator obviously worships the girl. The lines that prove this are “While clicking her little boots,” and “She turns abruptly, and in a lively way …” The narrator notices every movement the girl makes, he is fond of her and worships her because she is attractive. The narrator says that he isn’t serious at seventeen, but he is in love and he hesitates after he kisses her. Both Holden and the narrator are afraid of change. Holden hires a prostitute with the intention of finally losing his virginity, something that he always talks about and wants. Proof of this would be when Holden calls himself a sex maniac and when he goes to a bar with Carl Luce, where he cannot stop talking about sex. But after sunny takes off her dress, Holden again does not have the guts to go through with it and he hesitates. Maybe he viewed Sunny as special, but most likely Holden was afraid that if he loses his virginity, he’ll be one step closer towards growing up, and thus becoming a man.
The narrator is also afraid because if he continues kissing the girl, he will come of age and be entered in a long term commitment with her. Seeing as he’s seventeen and his logic that seventeen year olds don’t take things seriously, the narrator doesn’t want to go into a long term commitment because he wants to do whatever he wants and not come of age when he has to become serious and stop hanging out and drinking beer, but he loves the girl and worships her, so Holden and the narrator are in a situation where they want something, but in order to get it they have to do something they don’t want to do. Both Holden and the narrator are afraid that if they continue their actions with their women, they will take a step closer towards adulthood and thus, change.
In “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden starts getting a grasp at change. When he goes home and talks to Phoebe, he tells her about this fantasy he’s been having. Holden, wearing his red hunting hat was in a field of rye, where children were playing a game. Holden would run over and catch them before they reached the cliff and fell off. The cliff can be a symbol for growing up, or adulthood which is what Holden as against. When the children are playing the game, the rye is tall and they probably aren’t paying attention to where they’re going. Holden’s job would be to catch them and prevent them from becoming adults and thus preserving their life. Holden then goes to his old English teacher, Mr. Antolini. Mr. Antolini gives Holden basically the same advice old Spencer gives him. He tells Holden to find himself and ultimately grow up. These events are the rising action to the scene where Holden gives Phoebe his red hunting hat. This symbolizes the fact that he has grown up and accepted change, and is now making Phoebe the next ‘catcher in the rye’. Holden ultimately accepts change and lets out his feelings by crying after all of this time and finally becomes an adult (“I felt so damn happy all of sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth [p. 114]).
Holden accepts change and releases his feelings after a number of events push him into changing, such as his conversation with Phoebe, Mr. Antolini and the image of Phoebe on the carousel. These events are the rising action to the climax, where Holden starts to cry and releases his feelings after giving Phoebe the red hunting hat. In “Novel” the narrator also accepts change. In the line “You are in love. Occupied until the month of August.” You can tell that the narrator has also accepted change, because he is occupied with the girl, presumably dating her. In the line “All your friends go off, you are ridiculous.” We can see that the narrator has left his old lifestyle of wandering and beer and is now in a sophisticated and long term relationship, until a certain point. In this case, when the girl kissed the narrator, those events triggered a moment of hesitation where the narrator had to make a choice, leave his old lifestyle and pursue a relationship with the girl, or he can continue his free lancing and not take things seriously. The narrator changes, but the girl becomes what he was, a seventeen year old who doesn’t take things seriously. When Holden gives Phoebe his red hunting hat, he is making her the next ‘catcher in the rye’. He grows into adulthood and he takes Phoebe as his replacement by giving her the red hunting hat, which symbolizes the role. Both Holden and the narrator grow into new roles and give up their old roles to women. Although, they both give up their roles and grow into adulthood to the same women who helped and influenced them to grow up. These characters helped the protagonists overcome their fear of change and finally turn them into adults.
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