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A Comparison Of The Protagonists’ Character Development In Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye And Franny And Zooey

2083 words - 9 pages

Director Robert Zemeckis once stated, “We don't function well as human beings when we're in isolation.” This quotation pertains to the protagonists in both The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. Both protagonists overcome estrangement when they learn from their siblings the underlying reason behind their feelings of isolation. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield fails to form a connection with others at Pencey Prep and escapes to New York City in an attempt to overcome his alienation. Similarly, in Franny and Zooey, Franny Glass seeks religion to cope with her social isolation at college. Initially, both characters are isolated from their peers because their ...view middle of the document...

Ackley has unpleasant habits and insecurities that Holden finds irritating, and Holden notices he has been unable to hold a normal conversation with him, without seeing Ackley “picking at his pimples” (Catcher 37). Holden’s closest acquaintances all have distinct personalities that he despises. The contrast between Ackley's and Stradlater's personalities puts Holden in a difficult situation because he does not feel a sense of belonging to either social group; he is neither as arrogant and popular as Stradlater, nor as repulsive and unpleasant as Ackley. Holden's inability to change his dogmatic and judgmental attitude toward his roommates makes him unable to connect with his two acquaintences, and this contributes to his feelings of isolation and loneliness. Similarly, in Franny and Zooey, Franny becomes increasingly isolated as a result of her misgivings about college. While at a restaurant with her boyfriend, Franny criticizes her professors for letting “section men,” who are graduate students with “little button-down-collar shirt[s] and striped tie[s],” take over their classes when they are away (Franny 14-15). She insists that these men are “running around ruining things for people” by being overly pompous, and by improperly teaching literature (Franny 15). Her negative feelings about her peers causes her to lose interest in learning. She greatly dislikes and despises the section men’s methods of teaching, as their arrogant attitudes degrade her experiences with literature. Furthermore, she describes her peers to be akin to Wally Campbell, who mindlessly conforms to society and whose actions are “meaningless and – sad-making” (Franny 26). Like Holden, Franny also feels that the students are uninteresting and do not appeal to her personality, which makes her feel like an outsider. Her judgmental rant about the similarities of everyone around her, and her own notion that she is unique and superior in some way, shows how the school environment contributes to her inability to connect with others. As a result, both characters struggle to connect with their peers and subsequently feel isolated from everyone because they cannot overcome their judgmental attitudes.
As each novel progresses, both protagonists seek instant pleasure in attempt to escape from their isolation, but their desperation for comfort leads to their deteriorating health. Holden attempts to escape his feelings of alienation by going to New York City, but in his desperate attempt to connect with others, his overall health worsens. Struggling with his loneliness, he reluctantly agrees to have a prostitute come to his room at the hotel: “I was feeling so depressed I didn’t even think” (Catcher 91). Holden’s desperation has made him travel from Pencey Prep, in Pennsylvania, all the way to New York City to escape his feeling of isolation from his fellow students. Even though it goes against his moral values about sex, he desperately reaches out to anyone who might be willing to ease...

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