There have been many great authors to this date in history, as we know it. In my lifetime, J D Salinger is one of the most famous and powerful authors I read. “J D Salinger, one of the world’s most influential and reclusive authors…” (Brooks Richard, The Sunday Times pg 3) states Richard Brooks from “The Sunday Times”. One of Salinger’s greatest achievements was the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”. I heard about he novel in numerous occasions. It was even mentioned in films such as “Conspiracy Theory” in which Mel Gibson plays a “disturbed” man who has to buy a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” whenever he sees one or has the thought about the novel. He had a bookshelf filled with the novel. It seemed like I was the only one that did not read this classic. So I went to the library and they were all on loan so I bought one. After finishing the novel, which was great, I decided to read another piece of Salinger’s work to see how Salinger’s writing style would compare to “The Catcher in the Rye”. I picked up a book called “Nine Stories”, which had, as the title read, nine different short stories. I found myself reading a story called “For Esme – with love and squalor”. After completing the story, I discovered that the two stories had a lot in common with each other. It was mainly because of Salinger’s narrative style and other writing technique’s he uses in these two great stories.
Both of these stories are in first person point of view but “The Catcher in the Rye” is in subjective narration. Holden Caulfield is a teenager who sees the world as an evil and corrupted place where there is no peace. “That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “F*** you” right under your nose” (Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye). Salinger uses the innocence of Holden Caulfield’s view of the world for the subject narration.
Salinger cleverly reverses this effect in “For Esme – with love and squalor”. He uses the point of view of a young adult to interact with the young girl, Esme. The results in the reader receiving the thoughts of Esme through there dialogue with the narrator. Therefore, the reader can understand the view of society on young intelligent minds. For example, the narrator talks about Esme. “It wasn’t an observation of a smart aleck but that of a truth-lover of a statistics-lover” (Narrator, For Esme – with love and squalor). This observation shows us how the adult is actually admiring Esme’s thoughts. In “The Catcher in the Rye”, the reader cannot get a sense of what society thinks of Holden.
What struck me was Salinger’s fascination with intelligent children. Esme is a young girl who is highly intelligent. You can see this by her conversation with the adult. The adult told Esme that he was in England for health reasons, while the fact was that he was there for a special secret military assignment. Esme then replied “Really, I wasn’t quite born yesterday you know” (Esme, For Esme – with love and squalor). Phoebe, Holden’s sister, is also a bright young girl. Holden constantly thinks about how Phoebe is the perfect smart one in the family. “She’s very good in spelling. She’s very good in all her subjects, but she’s best in spelling” (Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye). When Holden was about to leave town, Phoebe started to cry and not answer any of Holden’s questions, which the led to Holden staying at home. You can say that it was Phoebe’s humanly emotions but I have no doubt that she stopped paying attention to Holden so he would hopefully change his mind.
Another interesting similarity between Phoebe and Esme is that they both are portrayed as being children but having the attitude of adults. Holden did not just call his sister by her name, “Phoebe”, but instead he would call her “Old Phoebe”. “She would wear white gloves and walk right between us, like a lady and all” (Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye). Esme was no different from Phoebe. The adult in “For Esme – with love and squalor” also had thoughts of Esme acting like an adult. “I saw her yawn. It was a ladylike yawn, a closed-mouth yawn, but you couldn’t miss it; her nostril wings gave her away” (Narrator, For Esme – with love and squalor).
The loss of loved ones and not having a close relationship with your family is common between Holden and Esme. Holden had lost his brother Allie and is not fond of being around his parents. Esme’s parents died before she could even start a relationship, let alone a close relationship with then parents. Since there were no parents and close friends to be satisfied with life both Holden and Esme have only their long run futures to look ahead to. Holden wanted to move down south and get employed at a gas pump and live in a cabin he made with his salary. “They’d let me put gas and oil in their stupid cars, and they’d pay me a salary and all for it, and Id build me a little cabin somewhere with dough I made and live there the rest of my life” (Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye). Esme had a different future in which she would become a jazz singer. “I’m going to sing jazz on the radio and make heaps of money. Then, when I’m thirty, I shall retire and live on a ranch in Ohio” (Esme, For Esme – with love and squalor).
Relationships between adults and adolescents play a big role in both of these stories. Holden does not have many relationships with people of his age but instead has good relationships with adults such as Spencer and Mr. Antolini, who have taught him once. Esme also had a short relationship with the narrator. This again could be said to be because of the absence of parents in their life.
Salinger uses the view of the characters to inject humor into both of these stories. In “The Catcher in the Rye”, we see Holden’s thought about old-aged Spencer’s bed being hard as a rock. He also adds “I didn’t feel like being lectured to and smell Vicks Nose Drops and look at old Spencer in his pajamas and bathrobe all at the same time” (Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye). In “For Esme – with love and squalor” we see the humor of the little girl Esme. “You seem quite intelligent for an American” (Esme, For Esme – with love and squalor).
Both of these stories were very similar to each other, from the characters, theme, plot and many more similarities I mentioned throughout this essay. Though, these stories never lost my interest as I read them and compared them. J D Salinger makes both of these stories personal as you read them which makes you want to read more even though you notice that you have finished the book. Nevertheless, what is certain, is in the near future, I will be going to my local library to try and pick up another one of Salinger’s great work.