The Search for Self in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Catcher in the Rye

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer Pages: 5 (1982 words) Published: June 10, 2005
Search for self in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye Everyone wants to know who they are, and why they were put here. People often wonder about their futures and what kind of person they really are. In the novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye, both of the protagonists, despite the different settings, the other characters, their restrictions and the different people that they are, are searching for the same thing - themselves. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a timeless tale of a young boy who escapes his society that keeps trying to "sivilise" him and retreats down the Mississippi river with a runaway slave. On his journey he meets many different kinds of people on the banks of the river, some bad and some good, they all help Huck on his journey to self discovery. Catcher in the Rye is a story of a young boy named Holden who leaves his prep school in New York and ventures alone into the city. On his journey he meets a number of people. Holden is quite cynical and he denigrates nearly everyone he meets.

Set in pre-civil war America, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place along the Mississippi river. As Huckleberry travels along it he learns lessons about life, society and most importantly; himself. Surrounded by a world of prejudice and racism, Huck is forced to learn to make decisions on his own. He is able to learn from the imperfections in the rest of the world as he views them. While on the river, Huck and Jim are at peace. The river symbolizes freedom for both Jim and Huck. The river is Jim's path to freedom from slavery, and it is Huck's freedom from society. When Jim and Huck journey onto the banks of the river they see the inhumanity to man that goes on in the world. This juxtaposition of the river and the land help emphasize the peacefulness of the river in comparison to the crazy society on land. Huck learns to think for himself, and tries not to conform to the ways of the people on the land. Although the world that he lives in teaches him to be a racist, his journey down the river teaches him to use his own mind, and find out what he really believes in.

New York city is the setting for this more contemporary novel, yet it has many similarities to the older, more timeless Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Catcher in the Rye takes place in the 1950's in a busy city. While Holden Caulfield is not living in a world where there are slaves, he too is surrounded by people trying to make impressions on his mind. He is surrounded by people who he calls "phony" and they are always trying to teach him what to think. The city in which he lives represents the world that, to Holden, he does not belong in. He feels like an outsider in his own home. He wants to get out of that place and be on his own away from everyone else. He is trapped inside a world where people keep telling him what to do. When he leaves school and ventures alone into the world he, like Huck, is forced to think for himself.

In the world of Huckleberry Finn, everyone is constantly trying to "sivilise" Huck, despite his reluctance to be "sivilized". Even if Huck was aware of his ability to think for himself, it proves to be quite difficult when he is surrounded by people always telling him what is right. If Huck really wanted to make his own decisions and not be prejudice like the rest of his society it would prove to be quite difficult because of all the restrictions around him. Huck's society would not accept him if he were to make a decision that is not normal. Huck has no abolitionist thoughts, and doesn't question the justice of slavery (Fiedler 26). Huck believes that because he freed a runaway slave, he may be condemned to hell (Hoffman 157). Huck's racist tendencies do not make Huck a bad person, because he does not know any better.

Holden's restrictions are much more internal than Huck's. Holden feels that he is trapped inside a world that is filled with phonies and fakes. He feels that...
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