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Holden Caulfield and King Arthur: A Linking Essay

Uploaded by Simon_Flavel on Nov 24, 2002

Holden Caulfield and King Arthur are not characters, but symbols the reader identifies with to substitute himself into the plot. In The Catcher in the Rye and The Acts of King Arthur and his Nobel Knights, the reader identifies with the language, the view, and the symbols associated with their central characters.

Language gives insight into character. In The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger presents the interior monologue of a character that every reader is or has been—a teenager, Holden Caulfield. Salinger captures Holden’s typical teenage thought with rambling expressions; when Mr Spencer gives Holden a lecture about life being a game that must be played “according to the rules”, Holden replies:

Yes sire, I know it is. I know it.” Game, my ass. Some game.

Here, Holden conceals his true voice; he releases it in a silent scorn that only he and the reader can hear. Salinger streams Holden’s thought exclusively toward the reader—this allows the reader to substitute himself into Holden’s mind and use it as a vehicle to drive through the plot.

Whereas Salinger produces a character to which the reader can identify, In The Acts of King Arthur and his Nobel Knights, author John Steinbeck produces a character to which the reader wants to identify. Steinbeck presents a hero: King Arthur.

“Then King Arthur put his army of twenty thousand in motion, and to prevent spies from knowing his movements, he sent advance guards ahead to challenge and capture anyone who could not produce the king’s seal and token.”

Steinbeck uses forceful verbs—produce, challenge, capture—as a means of glorifying Arthur’s image. The simple, story-teller voice delivers a medieval undertone that coaxes the reader into the plot, encouraging him to assume the role of Arthur.

Further, a character's point of view will persuade the reader to become more involved with the plot. The reader feels empathy toward Holden’s belief that he is a victim to “phonies”—the stupid, the pretentious, and the superficial. Thus when Holden rebels against his phoney society, the reader supports him personally; this enables the reader to identify with Holden and become more involved in his journey. When Holden says his brother prostitutes himself by writing for Hollywood, for example, the reader will take in this point of view rather than question its morality.

Arthur holds high regard toward Merlin, for Merlin’s prophecy is a safety net for his future. After Arthur retrieves the Excalibur...

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Uploaded by:   Simon_Flavel

Date:   11/24/2002

Category:   The Catcher In The Rye

Length:   3 pages (654 words)

Views:   2704

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