Isolation: Catcher in the Rye and Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

Isolation is a psychological state that hinders any social ties from being knotted. It shatters humans, plunging them into a downward-spiraling cycle of destructive behaviors. Though predominantly caused by a disconnection from society, loneliness can also be due to a fear of rejection. Two classics that give an unorthodox portrayal of this concept are “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D Salinger and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge. As the authors were influenced by contrasting historical movements, the stories contain different perceptions of isolation.

Yet both can successfully justify their ideas through a multitude of techniques. In the texts, the author’s maxims are continuously entwined with the storyline. “Catcher in the Rye” for example satirizes the fault of humans by allowing the reader to see society through the heavily cynical mind of J. D Salinger. The 1951 novel was speaks of a rebel living in a decade largely described as the epitome of materialism. Throughout the book, Salinger expresses his distain for people who want to aspire to the superficial and egoistic status quos of such a period. He proclaimed, “I’m just sick of ego, ego, ego. I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It’s disgusting. ” Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, likewise shares the same view as his creator. He goes through life showering his contempt for snobs in such quotes as “the more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has. ” Finding this world to be too horrible, Caulfield purposefully isolates himself as a way of rejecting society. On the other hand, Coleridge’s poem explains that isolation is the symptom of a psycho-spiritual disorder.

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Influence by Romanticism, he believed any emotion turmoil was due to a spiritual discontentment. So when he realized his own constant fluctuations between extreme euphoria and suicidal feelings of dejection (today known as bipolar disorder), he began a quest for religious enlightenment. With the poem’s allegorical meaning, Coleridge teaches this path of salvation to other people who also suffer from loneliness. Symbolically, the mariner sins against God when he kills the albatross. So he is then punished by isolation and only after his penance can he reunite with society.

Apart from using the storyline to emphasize detachment, Coleridge and Salinger employ techniques. Imagery in the poem is used to implant in our mind a nightmarish portrait of complete desolation. In the case of part IV when the mariner is all alone, such words like “rotting sea” and “slimy creatures” are used so to conjure up sensations of disgust and death. By doing this, Coleridge makes us relive thus better understand the deep isolation of the mariner. Catcher in the Rye similarly uses emotive language to express the flawed protagonist’s feelings.

Salinger entraps the reader into a conversation with Holden by telling the story through first person and its raw emotion allows us to easily sympathize with him. An example of this is when he says “I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around…” However, this outburst of emotion harshly contradicts the unreliable narrating of the protagonist. Holden would much rather have the audience think he is a lonesome rebel. Thus by including emotive language Salinger shows his creation is really a loving and sensitive man, alone because he is unable to outwardly express emotions.

Repetition in the book is another technique that creates up a constant story of seclusion. Phrases and fillers (such as goddamn) can be seen echoing throughout the novel. Holden’s reluctance to branch out his common vocabulary subtly parallels his reluctance to change. However this redundancy can also apply to themes. For instance, Holden asks various people out for a drink as the story progress but none of them wish to go. Each “no” draws him closer to an unbreakable feeling of isolation. Soon it creates a fear of rejection and when combined with a fear of change, makes it impossible for Caulfield to interact with society.

While in Coleridge’s poem, repetition has a different effect. The mariner cries, “alone, alone, all, all, alone/alone on a wide, wide sea. ” The technique here multiplies the impact of the sailor’s isolation on the reader as if he/she could almost hear his moaning voice so devoid of hope. The quote above additionally shows the effectiveness of the poem’s meter. Its rhythmic structure naturally directs accentuation towards words like “alone”, “all” and “wide”. Consequently, it highlights the connotations of loneliness linked to the words.

In the book, symbolism is used as oppose to meter to imply the protagonist’s solitude. Salinger is truly a genius in this case. He never once states Holden’s true feelings yet by purposefully hiding motifs underneath the purposeful ramblings of the protagonist, the reader is given a deep analysis of Caulfield. We see he hates everything about adults: their egoism, their social restrictions and their materialism. Yet time mercilessly pushes him to the verge of adulthood and as a last desperate attempt he severs all social links to nobody can influence his beliefs of justice.

For example, when he says he wants to be a catcher in a field of rye, many mistake this for insanity. However it was symbolically showing he wanted to stop the “phoniness” of adults marring the white innocence of children. Although “Catcher in the Rye” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” uses different techniques, the output is the same- two unforgettable texts depicting seclusion. More importantly, the text explains if the illusion of isolation needs to be broken, we only need to find love.


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