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Catcher And The Bell Jar Two Coming Of Age Novels

1258 words - 5 pages

Catcher and The Bell Jar "“ Two Coming of Age Novels While J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar are two entirely different novels with different themes at first glance, both tell tales of teenagers who are coming of age and learning responsibility. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been kicked out of school and is trying to decide what he wants to do with his life. In The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood tries to kill herself and is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. In both novels, the protagonists are learning to grow up and take responsibility. Both are experiencing difficult situations and are dealing with them. Throughout both novels it can be seen that Holden and Esther are becoming better able to deal with their situations. While both novels deal with coming of age in different manners, the main idea of growing up is shown through the characters struggles to figure out what they want, looking at death, and examining the characters relationships with their parents. Holden and Esther are both trying to deal with life changing problems in these two novels. Holden has been kicked out of school and is debating running away. Esther is depressed and has been put in an institution after trying to kill herself. While their problems are very different, the thoughts behind them are not. Holden does not really know what he wants to do with his life. His only dream is to become "the catcher in the rye," and this is obviously not something he can do for the rest of his life (Salinger 173). Esther too, does not know what she wants to do with her life. Esther however wants to be everything instead of nothing as is Holden's case. Esther talks about how she sees her life "branching out before [her]" like a fig tree. In each fig, she sees something that she could do with her life, or some choice that she could make. She then says that she sees herself sitting in the tree not being able to decide which fig she wanted. "I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet" (Plath 63). So while they are dealing with different problems, the similarities are clear. Holden and Esther's problem of not knowing what they want is a problem that typical teenagers can identify with. Death also plays an important role in both of these novels, though it is used in different ways. In The Catcher in the Rye, the deaths of Holden's brother, Ally, and a classmate, James Castle are discussed. Both of these deaths have a profound impact on Holden. Ally was not only his brother but also his best friend. While Holden feels that he is in a world that is surrounded by fakes, he views Ally as one of the few truly real people he has ever known. On the same note, James Castle stands up to some students who are bullying...

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