Comparing "The Adventures of Huck Finn" and "The Catcher in the Rye"
The forthcoming of American literature proposes two distinct Realistic
novels portraying characters which are tested with a plethora of adventures. In
this essay, two great American novels are compared: The Adventures of Huck Finn
by Mark Twain and The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. The Adventures of
Huck Finn is a novel based on the adventures of a boy named Huck Finn, who along
with a slave, Jim, make their way along the Mississippi River during the
Nineteenth Century. The Catcher In The Rye is a novel about a young man called
Holden Caulfield, who travels from Pencey Prep to New York City struggling with
his own neurotic problems. These two novels can be compared using the
Cosmogonic Cycle with both literal and symbolic interpretations.
The Cosmogonic Cycle is a name for a universal and archetypal situation.
There are six parts that make up the cycle: the call to adventure, the
threshold crossing, the road of trials, the supreme test, a flight or a flee,
and finally a return. There are more parts they do not necessarily fall into
the same order, examples of these are symbolic death and motifs. The Cosmogonic
Cycle is an interesting way to interpret literature because is Universal or
correlates with any time period and any situation.
The Call to Adventure is the first of the Cosmogonic Cycle. It is the
actual "call to adventure" that one receives to begin the cycle. There are many
ways that this is found in literature including going by desire, by chance, by
abduction, and by being lured by an outside force. In The Adventures of Huck
Finn, Huck is forced with the dilemma of whether to stay with his father and
continue to be abused or to leave. Huck goes because he desires to begin his
journey. In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden mentally is torn between experience
and innocence, it would seem to him that an outside force is luring him to do
something but in actuality he is beginning his journey because of his desire.
The Call to Adventure is the first step in the Cosmogonic Cycle, it is the step
at which the character or hero is brought into cycle.
The Threshold Crossing is the second step, it is the place or the person
that which the character crosses over or through into the Zone Unknown. The
Zone Unknown being the place where the journey takes place. The threshold
crossing is often associated with a character change or an appearance change.
An example of this is in The Wizard of Oz, when the movie goes from black and
white to color, showing a visual symbolic death. A symbolic death is another
part to the Cosmogonic Cycle of which the character goes through a change and
emerges a more complete person or more experienced. In The Adventures of Huck
Finn, a symbolic death is very apparent during the scene in which Huck sets up
his father's cabin to look like Huck was brutally murder. Huck emerges as a
runway child and now must be careful of what he does, so that he does not get
caught. Huck also tells people false aliases for himself so that no one knows
his true identity. Every time that he does this he is symbolically dying and
reemerges a more experienced person. In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden also
uses fake names, but Holden symbolically dies through fainting, changing the
position of his red hunting hat, and is associated with bathrooms. The bathroom
motif, or the reoccurring appearance of a bathroom, symbolizes death for Holden
because he enters bathrooms with a neurotic and pragmatic frame of mind and
exits with a cleared mind. The use of symbolic death and motifs is associated
with the Threshold Crossing, the second step of the Cosmogonic Cycle.
The Road of Trials is the next step in the Cosmogonic Cycle, which are the
obstacles which the character faces throughout the literary work. In The
Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck's Road of Trials occurs on the Mississippi River.
He faces many obstacles, including moral decisions of right and wrong, dealing
with con-artists, and helping a runaway slave. He promulgates more experienced
from his journey down the river on his raft. In The Catcher In The Rye,
Holden's Road of Trials takes from Pencey Prep to New York City. Holden deals
with his own mental hallucinations, cognative disotience, and his desire to stay
innocence, his Peter Pan complex. The author does not end the novel with a
happy ending, from analyzing Holden's experiences we can assume he emerges a
more complete and understanding person once he came to the realization. The road
of trials is the third step of the Cosmogonic cycle in which the character or
hero faces hardships or endeavors and becomes more complete and experienced.
The Supreme Test or the Ultimate Test, is the forth step of the Cosmogonic
Cycle where the character or hero is faced with a dilemma of enormous
proportions, often found in the Zone of Magnified Power. The Zone of Magnified
Power is found within the Zone Unknown but is a place which has mystical and
mysterious powers, such as the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. Huck is faced
with the moral predicament of slavery throughout the entire novel. This test or
question continues to arise many times throughout the novel. Huck is torn
between right and wrong, in fact he almost turns Jim, the runaway slave, in
during his quest on the river. In the end, Jim is captured and Huck decides to
free Jim by breaking him out of the confinement. In a sense Huck accomplishes
his Supreme Test by doing what he feels is morally right. On the other hand,
Holden's Supreme Test is to accept growing up. He does not want to grow up but
takes in experience. The novel shows his dilemma through the glass motif, the
reoccurring presence of glass, glass being the symbol through which one stops
watching through and experiences. He consistently tries to erase the "f—k yous"
written everywhere and comes to a realization when he can't erase one because it
is out of his reach and behind the "glass." The glass motif also appears when
his brother, Allie, dies. When he is in the garage, he breaks the "glass"
garage door windows, essentially trying to escape his anger. The consequence is
that he ends up more confused than before even though he now has a realization.
The Supreme Test is often the high point of a literary work and the character or
hero usually receives some kind of reward after being successful.
The fifth and sixth parts of the Cosmogonic Cycle, the flight or flee and
the return, can be combined into one instance. After the character completes
his obstacles and Supreme Test, he is allowed to return to reality, the real
world. Huck and Holden are both social misfits and want to escape civilization.
Huck chooses to leave and "light out for the new territory." On the other hand,
Holden has nowhere to "light out" to, because the Twentieth Century America has
no new territory, consequently he is placed in a mental institute. The return
home is the reinstitution to reality as a more experienced and whole person.
William Wordsworth emphasizes in his "Ode to Intimations of Immortality From
Recollections of Early Childhood," using the following lines:
"Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;"
That we must put our idealistic picture of the world behind us and must look
at the world behind us and must look at it in a more realistic plane. Children
have an innocent perception of the world around them, but as adults we realize
the world is not black or white but various colors. The Cosmogonic Cycle can be
compared to the metamorphosis which a caterpillar goes through. The caterpillar
starts out innocent (black and white) and goes through stages or obstacles to
become a butterfly. The caterpillar emerges colorful as well as more complete