Critical Lens-William Saroyan Quote

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Critical Lens Essay

“Good people... are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure”. This quote from William Saroyan means that wise people acquire their insight from experiences, especially unsuccessful ones. I agree with the quote and the idea of people being knowledgeable because of the hardships and journeys they had endured. The two novels Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger both support the idea of gaining wisdom through experience.

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie Crawford realized who she was through her failed marriages. Characterized as headstrong, affectionate and independent, Janie attempts to find love, God and purpose throughout the novel. After her first marriage to farmer Logan Killicks, Janie runs off with Joe Starks. Joe’s aspirations to become mayor and his abusive control of Janie make her realize she desires a man who would treat her like a prize. Janie does not want to be thought of as simply a trophy wife; she wants to be a best friend and confidante to the man she marries next. Once she meets Vergible “Tea Cake” Woods, Janie knows her search for love is over. The two share a volatile and passionate relationship, albeit receiving criticism for their twelve-year age difference. By enduring failed relationships and abuse, Janie realized she wanted a man who loved her for who she was. She gained a better sense of self and became wiser as a woman through her unsuccessful marriages.

The idea of gaining wisdom through experience is supported again in The Catcher in the Rye. At the book’s beginning, Holden Caulfield is characterized as jaded from his awful childhood experiences and cynical, with a disdain for all adults and their “phoniness”. With a propensity for exasperating nearly everyone he comes into contact with, Holden is alienated from society. Yet, as the novel progresses, Holden is spiraling downward. He is depressed and all attempts at making a solid...
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