Catcher in the Rye Vs Huckleberry Finn



J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye Compared to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
All famous American authors have written novels using a variety of characters, plots, and settings to illustrate important themes. Throughout literary history many of the same themes have been stressed in different novels. In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, each author writes about the common theme of coming of age. The two novels were written more than half a century apart about two boys who seem like complete opposites, yet they bear striking resemblances to each other. Each author wrote his book depicting settings from his own past and based the plots on personal experiences. While the two novels are in different times and places, they have remarkably similar characters, plots, and themes.
To completely understand the two novels, it is necessary to know about each author’s background and how he got the ideas to write them. J. D. Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City. His father was a Jewish importer, his mother a Scott-Irish housewife, and he had one older sister. His parents were divorced in September 1947 before he began his career as an author. He grew up in Manhattan and attended public school until he was enrolled in Valley Forge Military Academy, where he had trouble adjusting. Later he attended New York University, Ursinus College, and Columbia University. Before he became a writer he worked as an entertainer on a Swedish cruise ship in the Caribbean and had a four-year military career as a staff sergeant in World War II (“Salinger” CA 332-334).
Salinger began writing popularly in the late 1940’s and 50’s in the Post-Modernist period. Authors of this period showed despair, paranoia, and irrational violence due to threatening implications of the world after WWII. In this era, Salinger wrote his most creative works such as Catcher in the Rye and Nine Stories. These books show the dilemma of people trying to come to terms with either a self-created or contemporary hell with a common theme of coming of age or loss of innocence. Recurring incidents of adulterated emotion can be seen in many of Salinger’s works, and he believes that is “the history of human trouble and the poetry of love” which explains many controversial events in his works (“Salinger” CA 334-335). In most of his works, it is obvious that Salinger wrote about his background and personal experiences although he never dealt with adultery. Most of his fictional characters grew up in New York and were of mixed parentage. For example, Holden Caulfield, the main character in The Catcher in the Rye, grew up in New York City and had a hard time adjusting to life at school. Also, Pencey Prep, the school Holden went to, was modeled from Valley Forge Military Academy (“Salinger” CA 333).
Salinger’s work was very controversial, especially his characters and his language. Some critics concentrate on his characters, saying that the heroes in his works are self-righteous and self-centered misfits, indicating immaturity in Salinger’s vision. He also brought back the concept of vernacular dialect and idiomatic phrases previously unused in American literature but popular in everyday speech. Some critics object to his use of foul language, while others feel that his use of speech is a brilliant technique to help shape his theme. James Miller says he is one of the most controversial writers yet, and he is greeted with praise as well as condemnation (“Salinger” CLC Vol. 1 299).
Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835 to Marshall Clemens and Jane Lampton. He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, a frontier town, where he got his richest sources for his writing. Between 1853 and 1857 he was a journeyman printer in St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia, and other places around the U.S. In 1857 he went to the Mississippi River, became a river pilot’s apprentice and won his license shortly afterward. He piloted until 1861 when the Civil War broke out, and he served in the Confederacy for a short period of time. In 1862 he was released from the army and became a reporter for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise in Nevada where he