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The Catcher in the Rye

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The catcher in the Rye is a book that was written by renowned author J.D Salinger in 1951. The book became controversial yet highly popular with young adults mainly due to the rebellious protagonist Holden Caulfield who boldly mirrors sexuality and other vulgarities in the modern society. The book revolves around young Caulfield who goes to Pencey prep school.  After his unfortunate expulsion, Caulfield does not go straight home but rather travels to New York where he whiles away his time in the arms of random females and prostitutes while drunk. At a point the young man finds himself at a local museum and compares his life to those of the lifeless statues inside the museum. He longs for their simple untroubled life but once again goes back to reality when he finally goes to his parent’s house while they are away and he meets with his sister.

According to young Caulfield, his sister is the only one who seems to understand him, so he therefore tells her his dream of being a heroic savior of children as the book title suggest. He argues that the statement “The Catcher in the Rye”, alludes to him being the catcher of misguided children trapped in a rye field.  Bored by his sisters’ naiveté Caulfield leaves their apartment and sets for his former teacher’s house late in the night. Surprisingly, his awkward teacher gives him a place to sleep and the boy once again shares his dreams with his teacher. Things however do not go well for Caulfield because his teacher somewhat kills his dream of being a child saver. He teacher goes on to give him a long speech but young Caulfield ignores him and decides that life is better off without other people’s opinions. Caulfield is again dismayed when he wakes in the wee hours of the night to find his teacher patting his head while staring at him.

The young teenager immediately leaves his teacher’s residence and continues wandering round the city until he is back home. He informs his sister of his plans to leave but she insists on leaving with him. While spending time with his sister at the central park zoo, Caulfield decides to go back home and try to explain things to his parents. Although they are clearly upset, Young Caulfield downplays this and delivers a message to his audience that says he misses his former school although he is gladly being taken to a new one. The book ends as the boy ponders on his life wonders if maybe his life would be much simpler if he merely ignored everyone.

This book is a bittersweet illustration of the typical mind of a teenager and the experiences they go through. It is portrayed to the audience in a subjective way as it mostly gives away Caulfield thoughts primarily. All his thought processes are somewhat connected as they all allude to Caulfield’s life experiences. For instance when the boy sees his sister riding on the carousel without a care, he begins to wonder what life would become if he weren’t so intent on breaking the rules. At this point, he then decides to go back home and deal with his parent’s wrath. Though Caulfield undergoes no transformation in his teenage attitude or mind set he eventually decides to change his perception on people stick to his own approaches. The book is not a typical literary work that is characterized by a particular plot, climax and happy ending but rather a collection of teenage behavior and colloquialism in the 20th century.

Although this book was first written for an adult audience due to its profanity and adult content its fame within the teenage fraternity around the globe has been immense.  Today it is clearly popular among teenagers contrary to the education sector. Until very recently, it had been criticized as a morally incorrect book that supports teenage rebellion and sexuality. It took time for this book to be accepted into the education curriculum but eventually did as it surprisingly educates teenagers of how being alienated, sad and misunderstood is only a period that many go through in their teenage life.

On the other hand, the book Don Quixote written by Miguel de Cervantes is a two part Spanish literary piece that was published in the time of the early 1600’s. Though the two are currently published as one piece, the second is somewhat an ending to what the first book sought to accomplish. The book revolves around a man named Don Quixote Quixano who is a fanatical reader of historical books on nobility and gallantry. He resides in the small town of La Mancha with his niece and housekeeper. As he continues reading these books, Don Quixote begins to loose his sanity by dressing up as characters in the book and bestowing upon himself the title of a Knight. His obsession with a local maiden also leads him to naming her Dulcinea de Toboso, the object of his affection.

One morning, Knight Quixote sets off for an inn which he calls a castle and after a misunderstanding with the inn dwellers and the inn keeper, he gets into a fight due to his misguided theories. The next morning Don Quixote is sent packing and on his way is involved in several escapades including a fight with some merchants who insult his lady Dulcinea de Toboso who he envisions as a princessand he is beaten into a pulp and left for dead. Fortunately, Don Quixote is found and taken back home where his relatives have destroyed all his fantastic material and he is nursed back to good health. Unperturbed Don Quixote plans another quest where he escapes with his easily duped neighbor Sancho and names him his squire. The fool accompanies him with the hope of being awarded governorship of an island. The two set out across the country in search for adventure and exploits in which to show their bravery and in their lunacy they attack windmills and trees which they think are large giants. In their journey, the two mingle with violence, lust, treachery, debt and embarrassment.

The first volume of the book ends this way but the second part gives the conclusion of the events of the first. Don Quixote suffers great misfortune in this sequel as he sees his noble steed Sancho betray him to wealthy traders. At one point Sancho even lies to Don Quixote in order to acquire the island that he had been promised. People begin to take Don Quixote as a joke and make great gags out of him. Hurt and betrayed, Don Quixote snaps back into reality and disowns any form of chivalry. Sancho who has lost a lot of things in his life longs for Don Quixote to return to his artistic alter ego but to no avail. The book ends with the death of Don Quixote in misery and utter despair in spirit. The dissimilarity between the tall, thin, and fanatical Quixote and the fat, short, fool Sancho is a pattern echoed in the book, and Don Quixote's fantasies are the object of extreme and malicious practical jokes in the novel. Even truthful and simple Sancho is inadvertently forced to betray him at certain points. The book, like “The Catcher in the Rye” is considered a rebel of convention and in ascending beyond mere storytelling to exploring the individualism of Sancho and Don Quixote, Cervantes assisted in moving beyond the narrow literary stereotypes.

The characters Caulfield and Don Quixote in these books are quite distinct yet similar characters. In the first book, we see young Caulfield being trapped in a world of his own and is completely alienated from others, much like Don Quixote. Caulfield does not care much for the opinion that those around him carry and rather goes about doing as he pleases just like Quixote. They are both rebels of society who take pleasure in whiling away their time in their dreams and fantasies. They two are also hopeless romantics and this is better illustrated when we see Quixote obsessing over a woman who does not even know of his existence. Caulfield too does have an object of affection, a girl by the name Jane who he left with no regrets after he suspected her of infidelity with his roommate. The love lives of the two protagonists do not end well as they both end up alone or dead.

The theme of Alienation and loneliness is also present in both texts. Throughout, young Caulfield feels excluded and persecuted by all around him. He even laments to his teacher that he feels “trapped on the other side of life” and he incessantly attempts to find himself in a society where he feels no sense of belonging. We see young Caulfield even donning a straw hat right in the middle of the street to parade his uniqueness in somewhat of a rebellious form. Thus, Holden’s alienation is the source of what little stability he has in his life. As readers, we can see that Holden’s alienation is the cause of most of his pain. As for loneliness, most of the book describes his noticeably manic pursuit for company as he flutters from one meaningless fling to another. Yet, while Caulfield’s behavior indicates his loneliness, he consistently shies away from introspection and consequently doesn’t really understand why he keeps behaving as he does. Because Caulfield depends on his isolation to maintain his detachment from the world and to preserve a level of self-protection, he often sabotages his own attempts to end his loneliness.

Quixote and Caulfield are however different in many instances. Caulfield is a womanizer according to the story. He was very much interested in sexual matters drawing an example from his encounter with Sally the prostitute. He also envied the relationship between his roommate Stradlater and Jane his ex girlfriend even though they had broken up long before. Quixote on the other hand is a simple man intent on making his fantasies come alive by travelling across the countryside in search for conquests. Although he does have great affection for “Dulcinea” he does not let it go beyond a mere fantasy. Even in the end when he demands for her from Sancho, his insanity fools him into believing she is the one but nothing of substance really happens.

Following the illustrations above, it is clear that Quixotism is a definite entity in both books. Quixotism can be defined as irrationality while pursuing ideas and dreams.  This term arose after the publication of the Don Quixote book. The term explicably refers to any character acting in the same way as the persona Don Quixote. The application of Quixotism illustrates how to incorporate postmodern theory and eighteenth-century literature. The contemporary claim that we come upon realism only through ancient works of which we are unacquainted has a long history: ancient writers such as Miguel thought about this same likelihood with the help of Quixote allusion, who view reality through works they have read. Focusing on eccentric Quixote narratives written by eighteenth-century authors, now accepted in today's classroom, Quixotism will fascinate readers interested in recent or eighteenth-century literature or merely in the history of Don Quixote.

Protagonist Quixote creates an imaginary fantastic world that he believes is existent and he manifests into it by going around fighting with travelers and windmills thinking he is a Knight. His behavior is clearly irrational and partly insane and is also clearly depicted with Caulfield in the catcher in the Rye. Caulfield’s character is clearly a hopeless romantic who has unmistakably misguided ideologies. First of all, Caulfield does not really care about his grades and this ultimately awards him an expulsion. Prior to this, he had a terrible break up with his girlfriend who went on to date his roommate. Caulfield clearly jealous and betrayed fights with his roommates and ex girlfriend and is thankful when he is expelled from Pencey.

After he leaves school, young Caulfield does not go home and inform his parents of the expulsion but instead wanders around the streets of New York looking for women, alcohol and various other escapades while trying to find himself. Knowing full well that it is also he’s home, the young lad sneaks in and spend a little time with his sister who eventually fails to understand him and he again leaves. His erratic behavior further leads him into a museum where as mentioned he looks at Eskimo statues and longs for their kind of life. This carries his thoughts to Utopia and he begins to picture himself as a statue in the museum. In addition, Caulfield goes to a former teacher and begins to tell him of his crazy dream of saving children trapped in a rye field. As Caulfield quotes he “saves children from falling off a crazy cliff.”

Caulfield throughout the book is definitely disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic due to the constant ridicule and mockery he is forced to undergo from friends, family, teachers and the entire society as a whole. Young Caulfield is a definite Quixote in the book because of the many ups and downs he faces because of his crazy ideologies. The boy much like Don Quixote sees himself as a hero amongst people that must be saved. While Don Quixote is busy saving damsels and young overworked boys around the country, Caulfield is saving children who are metaphorically oppressed and trapped in a field of rye. The rye stands for any roadblock or problem that any child or teenagers like him go through.

The nonconformist hero in both “The catcher in the rye” and Don Quixote is diversely accepted and rejected by many. Quixote is definitely a recognized fantastic hero among liberals. He goes against culture and what is thought normal to prove that he is indeed a Knight alongside he’s noble steeds Sancho and Rocinante his horse. The ‘misfit hero’ ideology although depends on the Quixotic appeal that a reader has. Many argue that Holden Caulfield and Don Quixote, by many of their actions seem to be demanding attention in a childish way. Don Quixote inadvertently disrupts the normalcy of the small town of La Mancha with his crazy chivalrous ideas. Furthermore, it is often viewed that the misfit hero like Don Quixote and Caulfield are usually imaginatively endowed but their physical inabilities are what stop them from accomplishing their imaginings. This explains why such characters are many at times very driven upon themselves. Instances are Caulfield with his young inexperienced and naïve teenage years and Don Quixote with his old and frail body accompanied by his dwindling memory.

This theory in turn begs the questions, how would most people react to being accused of insanity? How would many react to cruel practical jokes aimed at belittling and killing ones spirit? How would many react to being the outcast teenager in a society or even family? These questions are no doubt well answered by the two characters in the two books. Instead of reacting conventionally by backing out and letting go of their dreams, they boldly embrace them and set out to fulfill them. Although both books end somewhat in an anticlimax with no dreams or goals accomplished, both quixotic characters leave a mark in society and in turn history.

Cervantism also brought about by Miguel’s book is evident in both texts. It goes hand in hand with the theory of Quixotism and suggests what relates to subjects, character types, source of and tales used by Miguel in his 18th century literary works (Bergmann and smith, 1995). For instance, in Don Quixote, Miguel delivers many themes including Quixotism and chivalrous romance, character traits and events that shape the work of writing. As mentioned, the books do not always end well but they ultimately teach valuable lessons that are relevant in all societies regardless of the point in time.

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