Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Ordinary People

Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Ordinary People

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Ordinary People and The Catcher in the Rye


 In this paper I intend to show how the loss of a brother can have the same effects on two different people like Holden Caulfield and Conrad Jarrett.  Both of their lives are turned upside down after the difficult loss of a family member. 

            In the book Ordinary People, Conrad Jarrett has a good life and loving family when his brother dies in a sailboating accident.  Conrad feels lost and confused and he attempts to take his own life as a way out.  He spends eight months in a mental institution and when he comes out he discovered he is a completely different person and has the realization that his old definition of normality no longer applies.  A once-unified family splits into three guarded, isolated members who can no longer share anything with one another. 

            Dr. Tyrone C. Berger helps Conrad by taking him back through the death of his brother and anguish of life without Buck, his older brother and idol.  He teaches Conrad and his family that love, openly shared, is the only thing they can count on to give them strength for the test they call life.

            In Catcher in the Rye, Holden loses his brother Allie at a young age just like Conrad.  He cannot find a meaning in life afterwards.  School and friends don’t matter to him anymore and he wanders through the city of New York searching for some kind of answer.  In both books the characters are teenagers and still full of youth.  Conrad is on the swim team and participates in activities while Holden is great at English and is a keen observer of life.  After their brothers’ death they realize that they are not the same people anymore and that they have to start all over.  They are struggling just to make it through the day and to find motivation to keep going.  Conrad lays in bed in the morning thinking of a reason to get up, he tries to come up with a guiding principle to help him get through the day.  He says to himself, “It’s all right to feel anxious.  Allow yourself a couple of bad days now and then. (1)”

            Holden is hurt by his loss and takes a negative attitude towards life.

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  He read a sign that stated “Since 1888 Pency has been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men.”  Holden comments by saying:

                        Strictly for the birds.  They don’t do and damn more molding at Pency than they do at any other school.  And I didn’t know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking and all.  Maybe two guys.  If that many.  And they probably came to Pency that way.  (2)

            I feel sorry for both kids, because the loss of a brother is something that I imagine would be almost impossible to endure.  But I believe the grieving process is different depending on the person who suffers the loss.  Both characters handled this loss in the best way they knew possible.  They both and up days and down days where their emotions were like rollercoasters rising high and falling low with rapidly. 

            In conclusion, the missing link in the lives of both boys was right in front of them the whole time.  They both solved their problems with the help of their family members love and forgiveness.  When they hit bottom, and though that all was lost their families helped them through their toughest times.  I believe that because of their brothers’ deaths they thought they couldn’t depend on their families anymore; thinking of them only brought them pain and sorrow of past happenings.  But as they developed into new people they realized that family is the tie that binds us all.
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