es DownComparative Essay
The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger and Igby Goes Down by Burr Steers are both displayed as rites of passage texts. The respective protagonists of these two texts are Igby Slocumb and Holden Caulfield. These two characters are both on a journey motif, a journey of self discovery in which they both attempt to find meaning in life and understand societies values and attitudes. The two protagonists demonstrate non-conformity and rebel against the apparent hypocrisy present in their respective societies. Hypocrisy can be defined as the difference between illusion and reality, in accordance to society it can be seen as people who are not who they appear to be, people who apply a facade. This hypocrisy is present in schools, families, and in people’s values and relationships. Igby’s non-conformist behaviour is evident through his values and beliefs, his appearance, wardrobe and lighting present whilst viewing the text. Whereas Holden’s rebellion is demonstrated through symbolism throughout the text, stream of consciousness and his ideals. Holden and Igby are both on existential journeys, in which they desire to find their place in society.


The hypocrisy present in the corresponding texts of The Catcher In The Rye and Igby Goes Down is manifested through Holden’s ideals and Igby’s values and beliefs. The language of Igby clearly reveals how he feels towards the concept of hypocrisy, he despises it. Holden loathes people who he says are phony or fake. Igby’s hate of hypocrisy can be exhibited through this quote “The captain of the morality team invites his chic to the same party as his wife” and then later on “embrace your moral hypocrisy, D.H., go for it.”. D.H. is Igby’s godfather/father and is often seen as Igby’s lifeline back into society, D.H. is presented as a wealthy, honest and hard-working man but this is just a facade which Igby peals away to reveal the true form of D.H., a fake. These two quotations confirm the way Igby detests the hypocrisy of society, this time evident in a relationship. Holden displays his hate for hypocrisy by the way he is forever commenting on how people are phony and how they put on a facade. There are many instances in which Holden explores his animosity towards phonies, for instance he often comments on why the people are applauding a musical performance and cannot understand why people would desire to be actors. In a way Holden is hypocritical himself. Holden says “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.” By Holden admitting to his lying habits, he provides the responder with reason to believe that he applies a facade by expressing false pretences. This quotation also provides the audience with reason to think that Holden is not mentally healthy; this literary technique is called foreshadowing. The rebellious attitudes demonstrated by both Holden and Igby represent their attitudes to the concept of hypocrisy. Igby and Holden have similar values and beliefs which reject this idea of illuding reality. Holden rejects all materialistic value and success which corroborates with Igby’s attitudes in rejecting the American Dream in which his Godfather, D.H., has achieved. Neither of these two characters view, so called success, the way that the rest of society does.


Another aspect of the respective texts is how the two protagonists display their individuality in order to separate themselves from everyone else, they desire to be unique. This perception of reality is articulated through the symbolism in The Catcher In The Rye and the wardrobe and lighting features utilised throughout the movie Igby Goes Down. Holden’s red hunting hat becomes inseparable from the image of Holden. This hat is perceived as a symbol of his uniqueness and personality. The hat is outlandish, and it shows that Holden desires to be different from everyone around him. At the same time, he is very self-conscious about the hat. He always mentions when he is wearing it, and he often doesn’t wear it if he is going to be around people he knows. The presence of this red hunting hat mirrors the central idea present in the text. Holden’s need for alienation versus his need for companionship, which in a sense is a paradoxical statement, as in order to achieve acceptance through companionship, isolation of one’s self must be eliminated. Another key symbol in The Catcher In The Rye is the museum of natural history. Holden mentions how he loves the museum and subconsciously desires society to mirror the ideals of this museum. This is present through the quote “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.”. The responder, earlier in the novel, has already experienced that Holden can’t deal with conflict, confusion, and change. The museum presents him with a vision of life he can understand, a life that is frozen, silent, and always the same. The museum is perceived as Holden’s safe haven from hypocrisy and criticism. What is witnessed in the museum is factual and does not illude reality; Holden enjoys visiting the museum because it is in no way deceiving reality. The parallel to this in Igby Goes Down is how the lighting and wardrobe identify Igby to the audience. The use of the scarf always worn around Igby’s neck is the equivalent to Holden’s red hunting hat, both apparel demonstrate the uniqueness of the two characters central to the texts. One major scene in Igby Goes Down is where Rachel meets D.H. in a cafe. Rachel is dressed differently and the lighting projected on her is also altered. She dresses in white and dresses as more of a wife figure in an attempt for D.H. to accept her as more than his “chic”, the lighting focused on Rachel is also significant as it is increased to create a glow around her. The significance of Rachel wearing white is that it is a sign of purity and goodness. The hypocrisy in this scene comes when D.H. rejects the new way Rachel presents herself, Rachel presented herself as a female parallel to D.H. but D.H. rejects this new image and in doing so rejects all that he stands for. The rebellion to the ideal of deceit and hypocrisy is presented through the ways in which Holden and Igby define their individuality and do not conform to society’s values.

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Thirdly Igby and Holden are both seen as mentally unstable people, as they grew up in a chaotic environment, due to this abnormality, present in The Catcher In The Rye comes the literary narrative style called stream of consciousness. This means, in literary terms, a technique that records the variety of thoughts and feelings of a character without regard to corresponding events and chronological order. The writer attempts, by the stream of consciousness, to reflect all the mental thoughts of a character at a single moment. Whereas in Igby Goes Down this abnormality and no-conformity is displayed through Igby’s language of the text. An example of stream of consciousness in The Catcher In The Rye is when Holden talks about being a “Catcher in the Rye” this is evident in the quote “I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliffI mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”. This quote demonstrates how Holden portrays himself as the protector of childhood innocence from the phoniness and hypocrisy of the adult world. This fantasy reflects his innocence, his belief in pure, uncorrupted youth, and his desire to protect that spirit; but on the other hand, it represents his extreme disconnection from reality and his naive view of the world. Holden’s disconnection form society is shown through stream of consciousness but Igby’s is presented through his language. Igby is forever swearing and cursing at the hypocrisy in the society surrounding him. This from of rebellion is Igby’s most shown non-conformist behaviour. It demonstrates to the responder that Igby is a violent child and has been disaffected. Igby does not make the most of his opportunities, he lives in a bizarre environment and is experiencing a tough emotional journey.


Holden and Igby are both rebellious, non-conformist youth who express the need for individuality and companionship, a somewhat paradoxical statement. They despise materialistic values and hypocrisy. They believe that they should be the ones who will save the innocence of children from the phoniness and hypocrisy of the adult world.

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