What are thematic connections between The Catcher in the Rye and "I'm Nobody! Who are you?"

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would suggest that one distinct thematic connection between both works is that the central focus of each is marginalized from a social setting.  Dickinson's poem features a speaker who is not socially accepted.  The speaker's declaration of being "nobody" is a reflection of the social condition in which the speaker is not part.  Holden Caulfield is in much the same light.  Holden is not socially integrated into any aspect of socialization.  For all practical purposes, he, too, is a social "nobody." Along these lines, both seek to empower themselves with another despite their social marginalization.  The second half of the first line in Dickinson's poem seeks to create solidarity with another.  Even though the speaker is relegated to the periphery in the social setting, the speaker wishes to form solidarity with someone as they ask "Who are you?"  While Holden repels nearly every aspect of the social world around him, he does wish to form solidarity with a few people.  The most notable of all of them would be Phoebe.  In this, one can see how there is a thematic link with outsiders in both works seeing to belong to something even though traditional forms of socialization are closed off to them.  Finally, I would say that there is a distinct theme of anti- conformity in both works.  Holden spits venom at those he considers "phonies" and has nothing but contempt for individuals who seek to be accepted at the cost of self- dignity.  The speaker in Dickinson's poem articulates the same condition with the first line of the second stanza that talks about "how dreary" it is "to be somebody."  In this comparison, there is a direct theme of how the speaker in the poem and Holden actually do not feel too badly at their relegation, for acceptance into the respective social conditions of each would be seen as far worse a fate to endure.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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