In The Catcher in the Rye, what parallels or differences can be drawn between the ways in which Holden and Sebastian view society?

Expert Answers
sfwriter eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To start off, the feeling that Holden and Engleby have is that they are outsiders in society.  Holden, while more adjusted than Engleby, is still troubled and has difficulty with relationships.  Engleby is a complete outsider, with no friends at all and an adversarial relationship with everyone in his prep school.  While Holden's feeling of otherness is more internal (thinking everyone is a "phony", thinking Ackley is a "slob", etc.) Engleby's disassociation with society is more serious and manifests itself in extremely anti-social ways.  Engleby becomes a chronic thief and liar, and actively plans the near-death of one student and performs the murder of another.  While it is true that Engleby and Holden have certain similar reasons for their disaffection (such as Holden's younger brother's death, and Engleby's father's) the case of Engleby is much more severe.  Holden still has affection for certain human beings, while Engleby has been so alienated -- by others' actions and his own -- that he never manages a meaningful connection other than his attempted disastrous relationship with Jen.  Both young men criticize other people ruthlessly, and hold themselves apart, and above, other people; but in the end Holden can see the value of humanity.  Engleby never does.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question