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Comparison and Contrast of a Separate Peace and Catcher in the Rye

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Comparison and Contrast Essay

A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye

The coming of age novels, The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, and A Separate Peace, written by John Knowles, both interpret the lives of adolescent boys journeying through their conflicts and inner confusion to reach the level of maturity. Salinger and Knowles both discern the literal ways a typical teenager grows up with the help of literary elements such as plot, setting, character development, conflicts, irony, symobolism, theme, and point of view.

In both of the novels, the setting is taken place in an all boys' school. The all boys' school in A Separate Peace was named Devon High School, located in New Hampshire and the school in The Catcher in the Rye was named Pencey Prep, located in New York. By having both main characters being raised in a same type setting, they both can experience similarities that they might have to go through. However, each novel was set in a different timeline. A Separate Peace was actually written during the time of World War II, while The Catcher in the Rye was written after World War II. As a result, different time periods probably differentiated their lifestyles, which can produce unlike conflicts that the teenage boys might encounter.

The protagonists in A Separate Peace, Gene Forrester, and The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Claufield, make them coming of age novels by the struggles that they come across as they grow up into becoming mature, adult like men. Gene Forrester attains his maturity by dealing through the confusion he has from cooperating with his best friend, Finny, and the guilt he inherits as he blames himself responsible for Finny's death. On the contrary, Holden Claufield, in The Catcher in the Rye, illustrates his attainment of maturity by growing with the depression he possesses and his alienation from the people in the novel.

The battle of Gene with himself and Holden with himself creates the similar major conflicts between the novels. In this case, Holden has it much more difficult in The Catcher in the Rye because he has to struggle with a great depression and he constantly tries to escape it through drinking, sexual intimations, his awful attitude, and attempts of being out going after he leaves Pencey Prep early. The cause of this depression is the death of his younger brother Ally. In the novel, he describes that he literally broke all the windows in the garage and that he wasn't able to attend Allie's funeral because he spent his time in the hospital healing his hands. Also, the switching of private schools and the way his parents are always neglecting him is another reason of his depression. An example of how they describe Holden's depression is found early in the novel. In chapter 1, Old Spencer says "Life is a game boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules." Then Holden replies with, "Yes sir. I know it is. I know it...Game my a**. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right- I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it? Nothing. No Game" (Salinger 8). This quote shows that Holden is a victim of depression and in his thoughts he compares himself as not being with the "hot-shots", which means that he is alienated in society. However, in A Separate Peace, Gene doesn't have this conflict because he belongs to a club. This club that he is in is called the Super Suicide Society in the Summer Session where his major conflict started. When Gene causes Finny to have and accident, it haunts him throughout the story. As it haunts him, it develops their friendship into a relationship with jealousy. While this continues, Finny encounters another accident from the confession of the first accident and breaks his leg again. As a result, Finny dies through a surgery from his injury and Gene puts himself in a situation of guilt because if he didn't break Finny's leg the first time, it wouldn't have caused the death of Finny. In A Separate Peace, Gene expresses himself of fault with the quote, "I did not cry then or ever about Finny. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family's strait-laced burial ground outside of Boston. I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case."(Knowles 194).

Both authors include aspects of irony in the novels. Being unsupportive to one thing and then coping with it is one of the ironies that the novels share. In A Separate Peace, Finny, Gene's best friend, totally disgraces listing into fighting in World War II; however, at the end of the novel, he matures up and confesses that the war was something that he coveted and wanted to be a part of. Similarly, in the same content, Holden clearly shows his being unsupportive about school when he is kicked out of Pencey Prep because of failing four classes; but, at the end of the novel, he resolves this issue and agrees to actually apply himself to the other school that he will be enrolled in. This irony fits in with how achieving maturity is involved. Another irony that the novels share is that the main characters



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