Comparative Analysis Paper

Submitted By au22
Words: 2274
Pages: 10

The Catch How responsible are people for protecting others, even if they are strangers? The extent to which people are expected to help and protect others often varies based on location. For instance, rural areas emphasize helping neighbors while populous cities tend to adopt an “every man for himself” policy. In A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, Norman is burdened by his role as his brother’s protector and is expected to look after him around their hometown in rural Montana. On the other hand, Holden Caulfield, transitioning from a preparatory school to New York City, is not expected to look out for anyone and likewise has no one to protect him in The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Although the two have opposite backgrounds, both learn similar life lessons, whether it be from personal experience or observation. Throughout Norman and Holden’s stories, both authors use point of view, characterization, and extended symbolism to build the themes of losing innocence and understanding life. An intriguing literary element in both novellas is how the authors take on a juvenile point of view to foster realism and maturation throughout the novel. They channel themselves into their characters to create a semi-autobiographical effect, with A River Runs Through It being a literal semi-biography and The Catcher in the Rye being a figurative one. Maclean, in his seventies at the time of publication, reverts to his mindset as a young man in order to recount the pivotal moment of his brother Paul dying and his duty as Paul’s keeper. Since Maclean is the author as well as the narrator, he details his maturation through the increasing burden of protecting Paul from worsening additions. Despite the hardships, Maclean is eventually able to look back and be thankful for the burden of protecting his brother since it increases his maturity, allowing him to understand Paul’s self-destruction. Maclean reliving actual events also provides higher degree of realism and emotion which pure fiction struggles to grasp. Unlike Maclean who does not even change the name of his narrator, Salinger subtly expresses his connection to Holden in the only interview he ever participated in by stating, “My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book...It was a great relief telling people about it” (qtd. in Jen). Salinger’s personal adolescent stories reflected in Holden make The Catcher In the Rye feel autobiographical, and Salinger’s statement that it was a relief to share his story indicates that he gained understanding through writing the novel. Apart from embodying their personal stories in young narrators, both authors rely on first person narration to provide synthesis for their narratives. The use of “I” throughout both novels serves as a clear indicator of first person narration, drawing the reader into the author’s written incarnation and evoking empathy. Since first person narration allows for the reader to know what the character is thinking, doing, and how others react to him, the reader effectively becomes the character, just as the authors became their characters while writing. Salinger and Maclean also use first person narration to look back in retrospect at the end of the novel, bringing in the synthesis. In The Catcher In the Rye, an older Holden updates the reader and reflects on his situation, and Maclean draws out of his narrator to speak directly as the author on what he learned from Paul’s death with hindsight. Literary critic Wallace Stegner comments on Maclean’s reflection by saying, “The only thing that has happened to young Maclean's experience is that it has been recollected in tranquillity, seen in perspective, understood, and fully felt” (qtd. in “Overview of Norman”). Without the first person perspective, the characters could not have this reflection, and Stegner’s comment asserts that hindsight is crucial to understanding. After the critical moments of Paul dying and Holden going to New York City pass,