Esther Greenwood of Bell Jar and Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye

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The adolescent protagonists Esther Greenwood, of Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, and Holden Caulfield, of J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye both struggle to forge and maintain normal relationships with others. Though both characters are virgins, they share a preoccupation with sex and losing their virginity, and react nearly identically when faced with initial sexual encounters. The characterization of Esther and Holden results in the recurrent themes in both novel of failure to meet the expectations of others, the inability to interact with others in educational, personal, social, and familial environments and the resulting isolation, despite living in one of the largest cities in the world: New York City.

Esther Greenwood, the protagonist of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, identifies herself as feeling out of place among other young ladies she is staying with in New York City. Her closest friend is Doreen, but Esther says that though she would, “...watch her and listen to what she said...deep down,” she, “...would have nothing at all to do with her.” This shows an inability for Esther to interact with girls her age, as she is unable to relate to or trust the person she is closest to out of the group. Esther shows a distrust in people, such as her boyfriend Buddy Willard and Doreen, who she believes live “double lives.” These people meet the social standards on the surface level, and appear to conform according to the dictations of society, but in actuality, she finds that a double standard exists, one that is different for men than it is for women. Esther rejects this double standard, saying she, “couldn't stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double lif...

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...g Sir Laurence Olivier that would have been good, except that Olivier "knew he was good, and that spoils it." Holden claims he can't focus on to what the character is saying because he "has to keep worrying about whether he's going to do something phony every minute."

The timeless quest of teenagers to find their place in the world and the inner turmoil attributed to maturing into a young adult is the premise for many acclaimed films, and novels. Holden Caulfield, of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye and Esther Greenwood of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar both lack the ability to interact with other people in a normal way, and fail to live up to expectations of others, especially their families.

Works Cited

Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999. Print.

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.

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