The Total Package Of An American

2466 words - 10 pages

The definition of “what it means to be an American” is difficult to outline in exact terms; however, through the characters in Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye, Joseph Heller and J.D. Salinger manage to do just that. American spirit, identity, culture, and values are four aspects of America that are the basis of what it means to be an American. The characters in Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye provide the reader with a solid base of what Americans are all about. Most Americans are independent, fun loving, patriotic, and firm in their beliefs; however, some but few Americans are greedy and imbecilic. Through the works Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye, Heller and Salinger respectively use characters to showcase the true essence of being an American through American spirit, culture, identity, and values.
Deep down in every American, a sense of American spirit and pride is contained. Since the birth of America, citizens have put emphasis on their love for independence, exploration, and new places, an aspect of American society that is evident in both Heller’s Catch-22 and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. In Catch-22, the American spirit is conveyed through the new roommates Yossarian acquires in chapter thirty-two. When Yossarian catches his first glimpse of the roommates, he thinks, “They were frisky, eager, and exuberant [...] They were glad the war had lasted long enough for them to find out what it was really like” (346). Heller notes that the boys are excited to be in a new place and to try new things, supporting the idea of American spirit in that the boys are overjoyed at the chance to be in a new place with new surroundings, even if it is in the middle of a war. The same feeling of American spirit is expressed in Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. After a brief time at his school, Holden decides to leave because he feels alienated and craves a place to belong. Holden details his plan by explaining, “All of a sudden, I decided what I’d really do, I’d get the hell out of Pencey- right that same night and all [...] I decided I’d take a room in a hotel in New York” (51). Holden’s decision to leave Pencey exemplifies his independent nature similar to that of the American spirit. When Holden reaches New York, unlike the men from Catch-22, Holden searches for a place to belong. Using the independence of the boys in both novels, the authors express what the American spirit is all about.
Much like the sense of American spirit, aspects of American culture are evident throughout Catch-22 and Catcher in the Rye. In Catch-22, Yossarian must deal with the idiocy of his superiors on a daily basis. His superiors make up rules and regulations without logical reasoning or regard for what consequences their actions will have on the soldiers. Cathcart serves as an example of ridiculousness in the leaders of Yossarian’s army in that he is almost constantly raising the required amount of missions to go home. When he speaks to Milo about Milo’s inability to fly many...

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