The Catcher in the Rye vs. Looking For Alaska

Topics: Holden Caulfield, Coming out, J. D. Salinger Pages: 5 (1800 words) Published: April 14, 2014
Looking For Alaska vs. The Catcher in the Rye
Many parallels can be drawn between the main protagonists in John Green's Looking for Alaska, and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Although these two coming of age novels differ greatly in setting and in circumstance, many of the broader, more fundamental themes in each are actually quite similar. John Green was very much influenced by J.D. Salinger, and even admitted that Miles "Pudge" Halter in Looking For Alaska, was based largely off of Holden Caulfield, the main character in Catcher in the Rye. In reading the two books, this statement becomes less and less difficult to believe as we see ignorance, rebellion against authority, death, isolation, and eventually maturity, and self-reassurance as underlying subject matters in both coming of age novels.

Almost immediately, we see immaturity in both Miles, and Holden in something as discernible as each of their voices. It doesn’t take long to notice that most of Miles' main concerns are ones that directly affect himself, and his pursuit of the affections of Alaska Young. Even after Alaska passes away, we see Miles torturing himself over her still, asking himself things like, "Did she ever love me? Would she have left Jake for me? Or was it just another impulsive Alaska moment? It was not enough to be the last guy she kissed. I wanted to be the last one she loved. And I knew I wasn't. I knew it, and I hated her for it. I hated her for not caring about me." (Looking For Alaska, p. 171). While Miles shows his immaturity subconsciously in the sense that his biggest worries revolve around himself rather than others, Holden demonstrates his own sophistication, or lack thereof, through his recklessness in school, casually telling the reader things like, "They kicked me out. I wasn't supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on the account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself at all. They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself - especially around midterms when my parents came up for a conference with the old Thurmer - but I didn't do it. So I got the ax." (Catcher in the Rye, p. 6). It's borderline disconcerting how nonchalant Holden clearly feels towards his education.

The persistent rebellion against authority is another reoccurring matter in both books. Specifically, the recreational use of alcohol and tobacco happen regularly in both books, and is especially highlighted in Looking For Alaska since all of the characters who choose to participate in such behaviors are underage. Somehow, this paradoxically enhances the thrill in Miles' perspective when he asks himself, "Why did we drink? For me it was just fun, particularly since we were risking expulsion." (Looking For Alaska, p. 111). It sounds a lot like Miles and Holden would make quite good friends on this subject matter. In fact, it would be rather hard to tell apart the two rebels after hearing what they have to say about it. Holden recalls, "I lay on my bed and lit a cigarette. You weren't allowed to smoke in the dorm, but you could do it late at night when everybody was asleep or out and nobody could smell the smoke. Besides, I did it to annoy Stradlater." A lot of illicit, in-room smoking happens in Looking For Alaska as well, between Miles and his roommate, Chip, who had many strategies for not getting caught. In addition, it is not to be overlooked that there is a looming figure of authority in both of the schools in each book, described in the eyes of both protagonists as having power, yet are worthy of at least some sportsmanship-like respect. At Pencey, there is the Thurmer, and at Culver Creek Boarding School, there is the Eagle. Notice how Miles and Holden have undermined each of their headmaster's authority by giving them a moniker to call them by other than their name.

Both Holden and Miles have to deal with death, and despite the fact that the specific loved ones who die in each book have a very different relationship to...
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