Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Pygmalion

Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Pygmalion - 1884 Comparing...

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1884 Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Pygmalion and the Themes They Represent In J. D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden Caulfield, muses at one point on the possibility of escaping from the world of confusion and “phonies” while George Bernard Shaw’s main character of Pygmalion, Eliza Dolittle, struggles to become a phony. The possible reason for this is that they both come from opposite backgrounds. Holden is a young, affluent teenager in 1950’s America who resents materialism and Eliza Dolittle is a young, indigent woman who is living in Britain during the late 1800’s trying to meet her material needs and wants. These two seemingly opposite characters do in fact have something in common: they, like every other person, are in a constant pursuit of happiness. This commonality is the basis for the themes these two stories present. Some of these themes go unconsidered and this leads to many misunderstandings in the world. This is why Pygmalion and Catcher in the Rye are not just stories but, in fact, lessons that are presented in their themes. These themes teach that being middle or upper class does not guarantee happiness, treating others with good manners and equality are important, and pronunciation and terminology can “put you in your place” in terms of class. Throughout the world’s history, pronunciation and the way a language is spoken indicates one’s place in society. This is quite apparent in Pygmalion. Eliza is a classic victim of being “put into her place” based on the way she speaks. She goes to Professor Higgins in hope that he will give her lessons on how to speak in a more refined. She says she wants “to be a lady in a flower shop stead of sellin at the corner of Tottenham Court Road. But they won’t take me unless I can talk more genteel” (23). This is precisely why she comes to Henry Higgins. He knows quite a bit about the study of speech. In fact, he is a professor of phonetics. He can “pronounce one hundred thirty vowel sounds” and “place any man within six miles” of their homes (15). Sometimes he can even place them within two streets of their homes. When Eliza hears this, she decides to take advantage of Higgins’ ability and take lessons from him. She learns a new form of speech and this newfound way of speaking helps to pass her off as a duchess at an opera. Holden’s speech also manages to categorize him: not class-wise, but rather age-wise and personality-wise. He captures the informal speech of an average intelligent adolescent. This speech includes both simple description and cursing. For example, in the introduction, Holden says, “They’re nice and all,” as well as, “I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything” (1). The term “nice” is an extremely broad term Holden uses to characterize his parents. He does not want to disrespect them yet he does not feel right praising them either. This opening to Holden’s story shows Holden’s
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This note was uploaded on 01/09/2011 for the course EDS 103 taught by Professor White during the Spring '10 term at E. Kentucky.

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Comparing Catcher in the Rye and Pygmalion - 1884 Comparing...

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