How is the theme of rejection presented in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye?
Rejection is a prominent theme throughout both of these bildungsroman novels. Both texts focus on the adventures of young male protagonists who feel jilted from a society, which they have been ostracized by. Written 67 years apart, both novels feature unusual characters who are somewhat innocent, naïve and desperate to reject the process of maturity and being ‘civilised’. Published in 1884, Twain relates to the pre-civil war years when the controversy over slavery corrupted America. Twain set his novel in 1860, prior to the abolition of slavery in order to criticise racist attitudes and uses the Mississippi River as the centre point of his novel. It symbolises the route toward freedom and escape for Huck and Jim providing the setting for the growth of both a young boy and a country struggling to understand definitions of freedom, individualism jand civilisation. Salinger, however, uses his character Holden to explore the materialistic, conformist society he saw developing after World War II.
The first extract I chose is from Chapter 22 of ‘Catcher In The Rye’ where Phoebe accuses Holden of hating everything and everyone. Holden reveals here his fantasy of becoming the ‘catcher in the rye’ protecting children from falling into the adult world. This links with Chapter 31 of ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’ where Huck decides to write a letter to Tom Sawyer to tell Miss Watson where Jim is. He soon realises that Miss Watson would sell Jim either way. He resolves to ‘steal Jim out of slavery’. The theme of rejection is evident in both extracts because Huck rejects conforming to the values of society filled with hatred and racism, and Holden rejects adulthood and conforming to a ‘phoney’ society. This leads to both protagonists rejecting situations they see as restricting.
‘The Catcher in the Rye’, like ‘Adventures of...