The Theme of Escape in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain

The Theme of Escape in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by JD Salinger and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain

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In extract one from chapter 12 in The Catcher in the Rye Holden takes another taxi ride from his hotel to a nightclub. He meets a cab driver, a man named Horwitz, and engages him in a conversation in which he reveals his anxiety towards society and his growing depression. Extract 2 from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is from chapter 16 and features Huck and Jim drifting further south on their raft to Cairo, whereupon Huck grows more concerned about the enormity and consequences of his actions. Escape is presented in both texts in remarkably similar ways: in Catcher in the Rye the emblematic nature of the ducks that Holden inquires about expose us to his inner conflict and separation from society, whereas in Huck Finn, Huck’s struggle between himself and his conscience discloses a surprising degree of virtue and righteousness in his own morality – it is this that causes his eventual escape and isolation from a society dominated by corrupt values.
Escape from a society and the culture of that society is one of the most important themes in both novels. Although Huck has escaped the Widow Douglas and her attempts at ‘sivilising’ him by this point in the novel, he is still subject to the expectations and demands set by his society. The men Huck meets on the ‘skiff’ at the end of this extract are, like all the other characters that Huck meets, caricatures of the southern way of life that Huck is escaping from. The conversation that follows is dominated solely by the two men, with Huck taking short turns through the form of ‘yes sir’ and ‘only one, sir’. This is incongruous with his earlier ‘conversation’ with his conscience in his internal monologue, where he takes comparatively long turns. Huck describes his conscience as saying ‘...


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...lite and less socially acceptable whereas Huck’s shows the conflict between the values of his society and his own character.
In conclusion, the theme of social escape is perhaps the most important theme presented by Salinger and Twain. While both extracts show the protagonists at a turning point in their escape from society ultimately it is clear that they have varying degrees of success. Holden expresses his dismay towards his ‘phony’ society, and as shown by the symbolic nature of the ducks, aims to protect children from it. Huck lives in a corrupt society, bringing him to a moral dilemma between freedom and ‘sivilization’. Yet both writers cross time and space in their creation of two adolescents who are virtually identical, giving us an insight to American civilization and expressing the sympathy both authors clearly felt to those demeaned by their own society.

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