Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye Character Analysis

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The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies, are novels written by the authors J.D Salinger and William Golding respectively. Both novels work with similar contexts, making them have similar themes, conflicts, and approaches. Also, this connection, specially because of the character development allows us to make a deeper analysis of the novels through the use of the psychoanalytic approach. Both authors present thought or ideals they have about different topics related to the human nature and the development of the human psyche, this way, we can understand the behavior of the characters in the novel an their development. In this text, we will talk about the both novels, for showing how the connection between the different themes and the psychoanalysis in both of them take us to the following statement: Even though the novels are very different, they can be analyzed through the same concepts of psychoanalytic theory.

Before starting, we need a brief summary of both novels. In Lord of the Flies, there is a group of kids that fall into a desert island, where they have to manage their way out. The main characters are Ralph, who was selected as the leader by all the kids; Jack, who is a savage but influitive kid, who would later on take control of the rest of the kids; and Piggy, who is a fat but very smart kid and would be included by Ralph. As the story develops, Ralph and Jack have several conflicts due to the fact that they both are the leaders, so they do not agree with most of the decisions taken in the island. Jack, who start becoming a savage, influences the rest of the kids for them to follow him. At the end, Jack takes total control of the island, killing Piggy and having as his last objective getting Ralph. Ironically, they set fire to the Island for getting Ralph, but that fire called the attention of a naval officer and they were finally rescued.

In the hand, The Catcher in the Rye talks about a boy named Holden Caulfield. The 16 year old is expelled from school since he failed most of his classes. After having a discussion with a friend, he decided to leave his high school for going to NYC, where he rents a room. Living isolated and by himself is tough for Holden, since he had to deal with the death of his brother Allie, who died of leukemia. He witnesses hard scenes that a 16 year-old should not be witnessing such as prostitutes and violence. He finds easier to relate with kids younger than him. He discovers a new world full of phoniness and lack of artlessness. “Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.”(Salinger, ). He discovers that what he wants is to be “The Catcher in the Rye”.

The first comparison is related to the theme of innocence. In The Catcher in The Rye, we can see Holden Caulfield, who is the main character of the novel and has the idealistic perspective of becoming the catcher in the rye, where the rye is a symbolization of the “phony” world of adulthood, and the catcher symbolizes his intention of catching kids for them not to fall into the rye, since if they fall into the rye, they would be losing their innocence. In the other hand we can see Lord of the Flies, where several kids fall into an unknown island, where they had no restrictions or rules, making them lose their innocence quickly, becoming into savages. However, Piggy and Ralph, who are two of the main characters of the novel, try not to become savages and maintain their innocence. There exists a relationship between the two novels related to the loss of innocence, leaving as a message that innocence cannot be maintained. There is an unrealistic perspective related to the loss of innocence, where in both of the novels, characters evidence a hope in keeping the innocence through the pass of time.

Another theme that can be compared is the theme of maturity. In the Catcher in the Rye, we can see Holden is an immature young man, who escaped from his parents and any responsibility he had in order to maintain himself immature. He is 17 and still has nothing to do with his life but smoking cigarettes. The bit of maturity Holden gains is due to the fact that he is growing in age, so he is gaining naturally maturity. In the other hand, The kids of Lord of the Flies are forced to mature due to the situation they are living. They are on a lost island in the middle of nowhere and have the responsibility of building a civilization or a democratic system. They are gaining maturity in a way they should not be. They are kids about 12 years old, making them too young to assume that type of responsibility.

Finally, the last theme that can be compared is the survival theme. The boys had to pass through a rough situation, where they had to adapt by building forts and fires or pick up materials and resources for withstanding wild life. This condition takes them to their loss of innocence, where they start hunting and killing for surviving. In the other hand, Holden decided to leave and start surviving in the streets of NYC, where he lost his innocence. His case was not in the same severity level as the ne of the boys since he could still enter in the apartment and then sneak out, but still had to survive in hard conditions, were he started smoking, becoming a “sex maniac”, and losing his innocence.

These three themes that the novels share can help us to start with our psychoanalysis. There are several concepts that can be applied to this analysis, such as the concept of Individualization or SuperEgo. Individualization is defined as “the successful discovery, acceptance, and integration of one’s own shadow, anima/animus, and persona. It is a psychological maturation.” This concept can be related to what was mentioned before in the theme of innocence and maturity. In in this process of Individualization were the characters understand the context they are living in and can not maintain as innocent kids. Both novels show an attempt of keeping innocence and artlessness.

However, individualization is a process in all the characters, so no matter the situation, a person always arrives to the individualization, where they reach the psychological maturation. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden arrives to a city, exposed to a big amount of things such as prostitutes and violence. The condition in which Holden is living requires him of maturity. However, he is still a 16 year old kid who is not capable or relating with others and prefers isolating himself. This is why Holden adapts to this environment, reaching his individualization, which is evidenced in the different thoughts he has of adulthood and human nature. For example, “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”(Salinger, ). This shows how has a new conception of life from the one he had as soon as he arrived to NYC. He now understands how life works, even though he is living in a chaotic context.

In the side of Lord of the Flies, the boys face a very similar situation in the fact that they had to survive by their own. They had to face extreme conditions and reach the Individualization acting through the Superego. Superego is “the part of the psyche that provides discipline” () . As soon as they arrived the island, they were thinking of how would their parents act in this situation. They acted through the Superego, so that way they could establish an organized and democratic society. By having them to establish a new society, they had to mature quickly, since at the beginning, they celebrated that there were no parents at the island. Then, they started acting in a mature way, by establishing rules such as the conch. However, all of them do not have the same type of maturity. For example, in the case of Jack, instead of establishing rules and that type of stuff, he decided to start hunting and adapting to what they had to face, making conflicts in the island since the kids reached individualization, but there was a clash between the Superego of Ralph and Piggy, characterized by the logical and rational thinking, and the Id of Jack, characterized by savagery and the apparent forgetfulness of civilization.

Now, there is the concept of Displacement. Displacement is defined as “The action of representing or symbolizing someone’s feeling to another one into an object.“ Displacement can be related to the theme of survival, since usually when there is displacement, the objects or symbols that reflect the feelings are important for the way the person adapts to the society or how the character behaves and acts depending the circumstances. In The Catcher in the Rye, we can evidence Displacement in the way Holden is ingraining himself to the red hunting hat and Allie’s glove. The glove, even though it is just a “goddamn baseball glove” (Salinger, 200) has a lot of meaning for Holden and it even makes him feel secure. The feelings Holden had for his brother are all symbolized in the glove.

Even Though his brother is already death, Holden can feel his company due to the displacement, were he is experiencing representing a feeling of company in the hat, since in the moment he left to NYC, he has been isolated from everyone and the only company he has is his brother’s one, which is symbolized in the glove. The same happens with the hat. Holden wears the hat since it symbolized independence and gives him attention in middle of his isolation. This symbol evidenced a conflict, since Holden takes of his hat when he is next to people that he knows, showing his conflict between companion or isolation, all that represented in the hat.

In the case of Lord of the Flies, we can find Displacement as well. When they started thinking in how to build the society, they developed strategies such as implementing a democratic system, which is the conch. When someone had the conch in his hand, he had the turn to speak and everyone should respect that The conch in Lord of the Flies works with a collective unconscious, were every kid respected the conch, since it represented trust and organization for the kids. This way, they could all work together, listening to themselves and causing no problems. However, when the destruction of the conch arrived, there was a complete disorder in the island. “The conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist.”(Golding, ). The concept of Displacement can work since the destruction symbolized disorder, chaos and savagery predominating in the island. The feeling that the destruction symbolizes is fear to what is going to happen, which ended up in all the kids becoming savages and chaotic, causing a fire in the island.

Sigmund Freud and several social scientists or psychoanalysts have devoted some of their research to trying to understand the most violent behaviors of humanity. Most have agreed that violence is as intrinsic to human beings as peaceful behavior. The clear allegory that makes this novel of our society and our nature, to prove that the human being in total freedom develops savage instincts and falls into chaos and anarchy. It might be perhaps a very pessimistic position, which can be discussed, but that undoubtedly makes you reflect.


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Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye Character Analysis. (2020, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/lord-of-the-flies-and-catcher-in-the-rye/



How is Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye similar?
Both Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye explore the theme of the loss of innocence and the struggle to maintain one's identity in a world that is often violent and unpredictable. Both novels also feature young male protagonists who are forced to confront the darker aspects of human nature and the challenges of growing up in a society that can be both cruel and indifferent.
Is Holden a virgin?
No, Holden is not a virgin. He has sex with a prostitute in New York City.
What does The Catcher in the Rye symbolize in the book?
The Catcher in the Rye is a novel by J.D. Salinger that was first published in 1951. The book is set around the 1950s and is narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield. Holden is not happy with the adult world and he longs for innocence. The book has been banned in some schools because of its language and sexual content.
What is The Catcher in the Rye a metaphor for?
Interpretation. The Catcher in the Rye takes the loss of innocence as its primary concern. Holden wants to be the “catcher in the rye”—someone who saves children from falling off a cliff, which can be understood as a metaphor for entering adulthood .
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