The Great Debate

Over at the Seattle Times a blog post from Ed Cetera has sparked some conversation around the water cooler in our English Department. In the posting Ed Cetera wonders why people love J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and then he mentions his love for Twain’s Huck Finn over Salinger’s Holden Caulfield.

I believe it’s a difficult comparison to make since the two novels are so vastly different. While Huck journeys south, Twain uses Huck’s experiences to comment on the inhumane treatment of humans, the need for human equality, and the importance of education. However, Salinger seems to want a young protagonist to point out how superficial and “phony” society has become. Holden searches for something real while Huck searches for a reason to remain in society; still, both seem to be looking for their places in the world.

Feel free to weigh in on here or on the comments section of the Seattle Times blog post. Either way, I’m curious to hear what you have to say.


2 thoughts on “The Great Debate

  1. John Spencer

    I’ve never liked Huck Finn. Never. I enjoy Twain and think he wrote amazing novels. I just never connected with Huck as a character. He was too hollow, like a prototype, like a really flat side character who somehow got his own novel. It’s painful to me, like watching Joey on Friends get his own show.

    On the other hand, I connected with Holden Caulfield in high school and I still do as long as I have a drive for authenticity and a sense that the system is artificial. Salinger is hated by literary snobs because he was a pop artist who remained popular. He’s not James Joyce. I get that. However, it’s a well-written novel (not necessarily a classic in the true sense) that has become almost a rite of passage for high school intellectuals. (For me, it was early Sophomore year)

    Don’t get me wrong, Twain is a better writer, but in terms of characters, I’ll choose Holden Caulfield over Huck Finn any day.

  2. Jim Van Pelt

    That’s interesting. My feelings are exactly the opposite from John’s. When I was a student, I found Holden unbelievably whiny and judgemental. He didn’t feel “real” to me, and I couldn’t identify with his near total lack of empathy for people around him. Huck Finn, on the other hand, spoke deeply to the part of me that wanted to “lit out for the territories” or just dangle my bare feet in the river while forgetting about bells and schedules and school.


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