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Character Analysis - the Catcher in the Rye

Essay by   •  May 2, 2011  •  Case Study  •  2,290 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,142 Views

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In the following novels we are able to see the protagonist of each go through a period of struggle followed by resolution and personal growth. In The Catcher and the Rye, we see Holden Caulfield struggle with the fear of crossing into adulthood. In Jacob Have I Loved, we see Sara Louise struggle with living in the shadow of her sister and finding a sense of belonging. In True Grit, we see Mattie Ross struggle with her domineering and rigid personality unwilling to trust anyone. Finally, in The Chocolate War, we see Jerry Renault struggle with the idea that he will go through life without purpose. In all cases this could be considered a coming of age.

In J.D. Salinger's THE CATCHER IN THE RYE we meet Holden Caulfield. Holden is a 16 year old boy that is in crisis and under mental duress. He is highly critical of people he perceives to be boring, insecure and phony. He uses the term phony to describe many people he encounters. However, his very use of the term indicates his own perceptions of others around him are peripheral. He doesn't really know these people to sufficiently label them phony. He struggles to connect to other people; he keeps them at a distance or pushes them away altogether.

Holden has experienced two major tragedies in his life. First is the death of his younger brother Allie from Leukemia and second is the suicide of a classmate. He also seems to be stuck between childhood and adulthood.When Holden introduces himself to us he has just been informed that he has failed out of his fourth school. His attitude about this decision is one of indifference.

Holden fears if he gets close to someone, that person will leave or be taken away as his brother was. In some ways, Holden is looking for a reason to live; he's trying to find his place in the world as he crosses into adulthood. This is why his relationship with his sister Phoebe is so important to him. He feels if he chooses to become an adult, he is in some way rejecting Allie, who never got the chance to become one. By the end of the novel, there's some indication that Holden may be moving toward a new relationship with himself and his family. As Holden watches Phoebe on the carousel, he starts to see that change cannot be prevented and that he can't control the passage of his sister from childhood innocence to adulthood. Part of the reason he wants to protect Phoebe is that he doesn't want to see her grow up to be part of the adult world of which he is so critical. Holden himself is having a hard time becoming an adult and this plays into his fantasy of being a "catcher in the rye." Holden begins to let go of his feeling that he can or must prevent unexpected, even negative events from happening. He allows himself to feel happy. "I felt so damn happy all of a 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." (213) Only at the end of the novel does he come to realize that you can't protect someone from growing up and facing some of the disappointments that accompany adulthood. In Katherine Paterson's, JACOB HAVE I LOVED we are introduced to Sara Louise Bradshaw.From the very beginning of this novel it is clear that Sara Louise is very conflicted. Sara is a twin, born first and stronger than her sister Caroline. Upon birth she was bathed and dressed and put in a basket. All the attention was turned to Caroline who had struggled to breath. Sara is bitter towards her twin sister Caroline and jealous of all the attention she receives. "I was the elder by a few minutes. I always treasured the thought of those minutes. They represented the only time in my life that I was the center of everyone's attention."(19) Their mother had spent most of their childhood codling a frail Caroline. Sara struggles to find somewhere that she belongs or someone to whom she can be number one in their life. She has always lived in her sister's shadow.Caroline unfailingly invites herself, albeit innocently, into Sara's life. Sara feels betrayed; as though Caroline had taken all that belongs to her. Once Caroline leaves the is land to attend Julliard and Call joins the service Sara feels even more obligated to stay on the island.

Sara knows she needs to leave the island, that she could not be trapped there forever. "I know I have no place here. But there's no escape." (236) The Captain encourages her to discover what she wants to be. He reminds her of how strong she is and how she could make her own destiny. But Sara is afraid,"And, oh my blessed, she was right. All my dreams of leaving, but neath them I was afraid to go. I had clung to them, to Rass, yes, even to my grandmother, afraid that if I loosened my fingers an iota, I would find myself once more cold and clean in a forgotten basket." (247)Sara's mother encourages her further, freeing her of her guilt of leaving.

"I chose the island," she said. "I chose to leave my own people and build a life for myself somewhere else. I certainly wouldn't deny you that same choice. But," and her eyes held me if her arms did not, "oh, Louise, we will miss you, your father and I." Filled with doubt, always feeling second best to her sister Sara wanted to believe she really would. "I wanted so to believe her."Will you really?" I asked. "As much as you miss Caroline?""More," she said, reaching up and ever so lightly smoothing my hair with her fingertips." (247)

Sara starts to find her independence after the conversations she has with her mother and the Captain and decides to leave the island to pursue her dreams. She had aspired to be a doctor, but with the war ending and the men returning, her adviser felt there would be no place for a woman physician. So she changes colleges and becomes a nurse midwife. Just before graduation a list of Appalachian communities asking for nurse midwives is posted. The town of "Truitt" jumps out at her. This place was in a valley surrounded by mountains, exactly what she craved.

In this town she meets a widowed father, Joseph, who tells her God had raised her to go to that valley to help them. She eventually marries him and starts a family of her own. On one snowy night, she is sent to deliver twins. The first child born, a baby boy is strong and healthy.The second child, a baby girl, is very undersized and near death,just as Caroline had been. Sara realizes after a time that she has completely forgotten

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