What are some poems written by American authors that share the same theme as The Catcher in the Rye?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that you can find several examples of American poetry that fit some of the themes that Salinger explores in his work.  One poem that would fit the characterization of Holden Caulfield very well and express the fundamental loneliness that exists would be from Emily Dickinson. The poem is entitled, "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?"  The fundamental hatred of phonies and disdain for conformity is something that Holden articulates and is present in the novel.  Dickinson's poem speaks to this by appropriating the alienation experienced by those who stand on the outside and the search for solidarity with another.  This becomes one of the basic themes of the work and the poem speaks well to Holden's embodiment of this theme.  Another theme in the novel is the general skepticism towards authority figures.  Walt Whitman's poem, "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," speaks to the idea that the supposed "experts" might not be the experts, at all.  Authority figures tend to crowd out the individual spirit and Whitman speaks to this idea quite passionately.  Holden might believe in much of the same thing with his distrust authority and willingness to embark on his own for his own conception of truth.  Both poems speak to the idea that the individual has to break away from what is accepted and standard in order to establish their own sense of true identity and this is something that Holden embodies in the work from a thematic point of view.


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