I would like to know what the meaning of life is for the novels Catcher in the Rye, in comparision to either the novel 1984, or Hamlet.  Thank You.I would like to know what the meaning of life is...

I would like to know what the meaning of life is for the novels Catcher in the Rye, in comparision to either the novel 1984, or Hamlet.  Thank You.

I would like to know what the meaning of life is for the novels Catcher in the Rye, in comparision to either the novel 1984, or Hamlet.  Thank You.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Both Hamlet and Holden Caulfield struggle to deal with the situation in which life has placed them. They struggle with the indecision of how they proceed with their own life. This indecision takes them down some long and suffering roads with little support from the families that should guide them. This indecision leads to some huge emotional struggles.

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jasminaenotes | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Catcher in the Rye--is it possible to preserve innocence and prevent pain and loss?

Holden wants to become a catcher in the rye so that he can "catch" little kids before they fall off the cliff. He is overwhelmed with guilt that he could not save his brother Allie from dying from leukemia. He attempts to erase all the obscenities written on the school wall to prevent young innocent kids from seeing such horrible language. He wants to catch Phoebe as the reaches for the gold ring while riding the carousel.

Finally, Holden learns that growing up is inevitable, and that pain and loss are part of life. He says, "If they fall off, they fall off" (paraphrasing) as he watches Phoebe on the carousel. This is the moment when he finally grows up--he accepts the world as is.

Hamlet is tormented by indecision.  He is disappointed and hurt by the corruption in the world around him. However, he lacks the courage and decisiveness to act on getting revenge for his father's unjust murder.

Young Fortinbras is the opposite of Hamlet (his foil character). Unlike Hamlet he is able to act firmly and decisively, just to stand up for a principle.

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

Posted on

This question is a very complicated one, and any answer only opens up more questions.  Having said this, one, right now, seems to be prevalent in my mind.   There is a theme in the three works of character who envision their individual freedom as pitted between exercising anger against society, but  tempered with the feelings of tenderness towards others.  Sometimes, the characters often face a great deal of agonizing conflict because of this challenging dynamic of extreme social revulsion matched with extreme delicacy of emotions towards loved ones.  Hamlet's anger and complete disavowal of the actions of his mother and the corruption rampant in his Kingdom matched by his love for Ophelia and reverence for his father proves to be difficult to navigate, placing him in complete emotional disarray.  In 1984, Winston is pitted between his disdain for Big Brother and the social control apparatus of Oceania with the tender feelings of intimacy he holds for Julia.  In the final analysis, his freedom is moot as betrayal is the key element that underlies his fate.  Holden has nothing but contempt for the "phonies" that abound in his Pencey Prep and beyond.  Yet, this vitriolic anger is matched by his love and admiration for Phoebe, his sister.  It causes conflict for him, as the novel closes with his fear of trusting others.

If there is any meaning presented in the emotional conflicts mentioned, it might be that individual freedom is pitted between elements that cause us to possess great anger, but also benevolent love.  The navigation of both of these elements proves to be both the source of our greatest strength, and, simultaneously, our greatest weakness.

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