Similarities Between Catcher In The Rye And The Bell Jar

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J.D. Salinger and Sylvia Plath craft the protagonists of The Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar, Holden Caulfield and Esther Greenwood respectively, to each battle mental illness and society's expectations in their relative social spheres in order to find their own identities, but with varied outcomes. For Holden it results in a slow and steady mental breakdown that worsens as he continues to observe elements of a society he cannot and will not fit into. Esther has a slightly different experience in that she attempts to integrate into her social sphere but simply cannot due to her mental illness that she attempts to suppress but fails to due to the rift between her and the rest of society. The result for each is institutionalization where…show more content…
Throughout the The Catcher in the Rye, for example, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. As he says to Mr. Spencer, he feels trapped on “the other side” (Salinger 30) of life, and he continuously attempts to find his place in a world in which he is thoroughly convinced he does not belong. Holden’s alienation then becomes a source of protection and comfort. He uses his isolation as a justification for not interacting with people because it shows that he is better than them. But in truth, these interactions with other people completely separate him from his comfort zone, and his narcissistic sense of superiority serves as a type of self-preservation. Thus, Holden’s alienation becomes the stability and safety of his life. From the outside it is apparent that this is the cause of his pain, but he neither faces his emotions directly, nor does he seek out the root of his issues. He is desperate for love and contact with others but he has built a wall that is preventing him from achieving any of these thing. His isolation, however, is a double-edged sword. For example, his entire interaction with Sally was caused by loneliness, but his need for isolation and his narcissism causes him eventually drive her away. Likewise, he repeated expresses his desire to see Jane Gallagher, but he does not have the force of will to make himself do it. Like a drug, he becomes dependent on the alienation but it comes at a

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