Of the many characters that we have studied this year, without a doubt Holden Caulfield is the most unique and interesting one. A number of comparisons between Holden from the Catcher in the Rye and Hamlet from Hamlet. There are many similarities and differences that have been noticed between the two and it is interesting to take a deeper look at them. It is quite ironic that Holden and Hamlet both see people as weak who are selfish, lie, and cheat. JD Salinger and Shakespeare both wrote a story following an untrustworthy protagonist, but within the stories you feel a connection and experience emotion from these amazing pieces of literature. Three comparisons between Holden and Hamlet are how they both go crazy, lack maturity, and seem lonely and isolated.
One point of comparison that can be made between Holden and Hamlet is the idea that within their stories Hamlet and Holden both go insane but for different reasons. It is evident that Holden has been troubled since he was young, failing out of a number of schools and displaying contempt for almost everything he comes across. Salinger describes Holden’s mental state through first person narration where we get to understand Holdens thoughts. Throughout the story you can notice that Holden is not emotionally stable and he acts very impulsive at times. When Holden was thirteen, his younger brother, Allie, died.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Holden punched out all the windows in the garage. He claims that it was “just for the hell of it” (39). On the other hand when it comes to Hamlet it’s hard to tell if he is actually crazy or just faking it as part of a plan, but we know he is because he figured out that his father was murdered. It is important to know that the two stories have very different overarching themes, Hamlet is more about revenge while the Catcher in the Rye is more coming of age. In Hamlet’s first soliloquy from scene 2 his depression becomes more evident to the reader. Another reason for Hamlet’s insanity, suggested by Polonius, is the idea that Ophelia’s rejection of him broke his heart and his mind. This can also be related to Holden because throughout the book Holden is seen looking for someone to talk to multiple times.
Another point of comparison that can be made between Holden and Hamlet is the idea that they both lack maturity and a sense of being grown up. Throughout the story we see Hamlet become stressed and how he can not handle many situations that occur in life. Hamlet is contacted by a ghost who gives him reason to believe that his father was killed. His immaturity is what eventually led him to his death in the end of play, along with many other significant characters.
In the Catcher in the Rye, Holden cannot accept the fact that he must transition out of his childhood and enter the adult world, he also has a negative outlook and pictures things worse then they are in actuality. The difference between the two is that Hamlet’s lack of maturity is due to his kingship being taken from him and his father being murdered in the process, which was hard because Holden didn’t have an example of the right thing to do in this situation; Holden’s immaturity comes from him rejecting the help of others and judging their efforts.