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Compare and Contrast of Charlie and Holden

In: English and Literature

Submitted By byau94
Words 2014
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Holden and Charlie
In both the novels Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower, the main characters Holden Caulfield and Charlie are troubled teens. Although they were teenagers in different time periods they shared many similar teenage difficulties. Both novels portray a male protagonist growing up while struggling to find his identity, while loathing their lives. Thus both novels are of the coming of age genre. Both boys are socially awkward and are not able to integrate into society. In this case, Charlie is insulted by senior students of his high school, “God, that kid is such a fucking freak,” (Chbosky 145). Throughout the novel Holden and Charlie strive to become a part of society. While Charlie tries to integrate with society, it seems that Holden rejects it and wants to create a new society that suits him more. With the downs of life they find a way to cope with the failure of being accepted which leads to a self-destructive behavior. Such behavior tends to lead to the use of drugs, alcohol and violence. However similar they may seem, they also share many differences which are responsible for the differing results of their outstanding social statuses. While Holden avoids his problems, Charlie chooses to confront them and this is partially why Charlie becomes socially accepted. Despite their resembling problems, they also differ greatly in lifestyles. While Holden comes from a rich family and goes to a prestigious private school, Charlie is poor and goes to a local public school. Another contrast of these coming-of-age characters is that they have extremely different personalities. One could say that if both Holden and Charlie were part of one story they would be character foils of each other. Both characters face the same dilemma yet have completely different outcomes. Holden is perceived to be judgmental, cynical, depressed and a manic while Charlie is shown to the reader as an excited and enthusiastic child. Regardless of how similar Holden and Charlie are, their futures end in a contradicting manner. Both Holden and Charlie are regarded as social outcasts, not able to make many friends. Their failed attempt to connect with society leads them towards a path of uncertain self-destruction.
Holden and Charlie’s self-destructive behaviors are quite similar, both characters turn to smoking as stress relief. Holden begins to smoke several packs a day, whereas Charlie turns to drinking and dangerous drugs, such as marijuana and acid. There are many small factors as to why Holden and Charlie become self-destructive. Mainly it is the loss of someone close giving, them a feeling of hopelessness. Holden was consistently unable to find friends, but for Charlie, he slowly adapts and progressively makes more and more friends. In the novels, both Holden and Charlie are not portrayed as the center of attraction in their families. In Holden’s case D.B, his older brother, shines the greatest in the family. D.B has graduated from school and has become a successful play-wright in Hollywood, whereas Holden has been kicked out of school and has no direction in his life. Similarly, Charlie’s brother is also successful, as he attends the Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship. Both novels start with the characters not having a lot of friends. The reason for Holden not having friends is because he judges and hates everyone, but at the same time he wants to join them. Holden consistently makes a half-hearted attempt to reach out, and then becomes disappointed when that person isn’t there to talk to him, support him or to understand him. This is displayed when Holden yells at Sally Hayes for not agreeing with him on their date. ‘I said. “You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth.”’ (Salinger 133). In the previous passage, Holden had tried to ask Sally to leave with him, but she refuses and Holden turns sour. Holden dislikes all the boys at his school and regards them all as phonies. ‘“You ought to go to a boys’ school sometime. Try it sometime,” I said. “It’s full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day,…”’(Salinger 131). This passage proves that Holden is dissatisfied with the boys at his school, he believes they are fake and he does not social well with them. Although Holden doesn’t want to interact much, when he does end up interacting with people, he usually gets the short end of the stick. For instance he invites Ackley, a boy he meets at Pency Prep, along to the movies, but Ackley won't return the favor by letting Holden sleep in his roommate's bed. ‘“I’m not worried about it. Only, I’d hate like hell if Ely came in all of a sudden and found some guy-”’ (Salinger 49). Another instance is when Holden pays Sunny even though they don’t have sex, and ends up getting scammed. At a young age, Holden lost his younger brother, Allie. This had a huge traumatizing effect on him; Holden felt useless because he was unable to help his brother. Holden turns his emotions into anger; stating that he punched out all the windows in the garage. Another time Holden felt unable to help was when his peer, James Castle, was harassed and bullied, leading to James’s suicide. Holden says, “... and there was old James Castle laying right on the stone steps and all. He was dead, and his teeth, and blood, were all over the place, and nobody would even go near him. He had on this turtleneck sweater I'd lent him”’ (Salinger 170). Holden feels that society had stripped him of everything, one brother dead and the other lost to the glamour of Hollywood. His relationship with his parents seems to have dwindled down to almost nothing. It is not surprising that this is a society that he rejects. All these small factors build up to Holden’s bitter view of life and leads to his self destruction. Charlie, very much like Holden, loses someone important: his aunt Helen. Throughout the novel Charlie expresses that Helen was the only one that had made him feel special, frequently telling him that she loved him. Charlie feels responsible for the death of Helen, because she died in a car crash trying to buy his birthday gift. Charlie also suffers another loss, Michael, a close friend from elementary school. Through reading Charlie’s letters it can be determined that Michael has committed suicide. When Charlie had first found out about the death of his best and only friend, he was unable to stop the tears from flowing. He cried so much that he was recommended a guidance counselor. Charlie felt responsible because as Michael’s friend he was not able to comfort Michael from the pain he was suffering. Crying seems to be Charlie’s way of expressing his emotion whereas Holden is more physical and breaks windows. Unlike Holden though, Charlie meets two new friends that help him get through life and is able to cope with the hardships of life. Both characters were originally unable to connect with anyone, but throughout the novel we see that both Holden and Charlie find at least one person with whom they are able to console and talk comfortably with. For Holden, it was his little sister Phoebe and for Charlie, it was Patrick and Sam.
Holden and Charlie have completely different personalities and this is what separates their methods of confronting their problems at hand. Holden is perceived as a drab, cynical, unenthusiastic, and indifferent boy. While Charlie is quite the opposite, he seems to be a lively young boy despite his hardships, he is excited about new friendships and feeling euphoric at moments of his life, “I feel infinite.” (Chbosky 33) When faced with a problem, Holden’s method of dealing with it is to avoid it, to run away from his complications. When Holden is kicked out of school, instead of returning home like he was supposed to he runs away. He travels around New York, instead of facing his consequences and his parents. He is fed up with how bad his life is and wants to ‘run away’.
Holden says “Here’s my idea. How would you like to get the hell out of here? Here’s my idea. I know this guy down in Greenwich Village that we can borrow his car for a couple of week. He used to go to the same school I did and he still owes me ten bucks. What we could do is, tomorrow morning we could drive up to Massachusetts and Vermont, and all around there, see. It’s beautiful as hell up there. It really is.” (Salinger 132)
In that quotation Holden asks Sally Hayes to leave society with him. He wants to leave the city and travel and live in the wild. This quotation proves the point that Holden runs away whenever he is faced with a challenge. On the other hand Charlie is honest and in a straightforward manner confronts his problems. In the following passage Charlie has upset a close friend of his and thus confronts her to resolve the problem, ‘She just said, “It’s too late, Charlie.”... I just said, “I’m sorry.” And I really was sorry. And I know she believed me.’(Chbosky 138).
There are many contrasts between the characters as well, such as in their personalities is that Charlie is extinguished as boy of innocence, he doesn’t like to lie and almost never does. On the other hand, Holden constantly lies, even about the smallest things like his age. Holden comes across as a headstrong and stubborn person, this was proved to the reader when he was confronted by Maurice who openly threatened him for five dollars, yet he refused to pay him. However, Charlie is easy influenced and isn’t himself most of the time. He does this to make his friends happy. “You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.” (Chbosky 200) He tries to do what he thinks other people want him to do instead of what he really wants. Lastly, by the end of the novel, Holden's depression/anger starts to take a physical form, he becomes nauseous, has headache, feels dizzy, and he eventually passes out. At the end of The Catcher in the Rye Holden’s view of society have not changed much and he still has not accepted society. Holden is still drab, and feels that society is hopeless. Whereas, at the end of the perks of being a wallflower Charlie suffers a breakdown due to the fear of his new found friends leaving for college. After being hospitalized for two months, Charlie has a new perspective in life. Charlie states that he is in fact ready to “participate” (Chbosky 213) with life. Charlie is renewed with positive energy, he no longer feels sad rather he is full of hope. ‘please believe that things are good with me, and even when they not, they will be soon enough.’(Chbosky 213)
In essence, Holden and Charlie, children of different eras face similar teenage social issues despite their different lifestyles and personalities. Both want to become socially accepted and strive to make friends. Their failure to do so, leads them towards a path of self-destructive behavior. Holden was not able to integrate into society due to his distinct personality. Holden is extremely judgmental, he constantly analyzes the errors of mankind and openly expresses them. This is what deems Holden as cynical and so he is not able to engage properly with others. At first Charlie too was unable to integrate with society, however as time passes Charlie accommodates himself to meet the needs of those around him and thus he was able to make friends. Ultimately, where Holden falls to self-destruction, Charlie is successful in finding salvation.…...

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