Critical Thinking

The standing on the edge of some crazy

The characters Holden Caulfield and Forrest
Gump are the leads in two very popular and entertaining stories where they
share their experiences, thoughts and feelings from their own perspectives.  Forrest
Gump (1994) is a movie based off the original book of the same name that
was written by Winston Groom in 1986. This film tells the story of Forrest Gump
who is a simple man with a low I.Q. who recounts his eventful life story to a
stranger from his point of view. Several of his adventures are main historical
events in United States history (e.g., teaching Elvis his dance moves, becoming
a hero in the Vietnam war, and visiting the White House several times). Holden’s
story does not contain such monumental events, but his story is still
meaningful and just as entertaining. Catcher
in The Rye is a story written by J.D. Salinger.  It is about a boy named Holden Caulfield, who
tells his story to the reader from his humourous perspective as he recalls what
happened in his few days in New York after being expelled from his private
school. After many failed encounters with other characters, he later returns
home to meet with his younger sister, Phoebe. Through his experiences over
these few days, much is revealed about Holden’s troubled past and his
personality. Even though the way that Holden handles life’s obstacles is very
different than how Forrest deals with adversity, Holden Caulfield and Forrest
Gump are similar in several ways. Both characters get their hearts broken, are
often immature or child-like, and seen as socially awkward people.

            Both
Holden and Forrest have an innocence about them as they struggle through
whatever life throws at them with their childlike mindsets. As Holden
continually tries to act like an adult (smoking, drinking, trying to have sex),
he is not successful or happy. As an adultescent, he is stuck between adulthood
and childhood and he is not able to handle the normal stresses involved with
this stage of life. As a result, he ends up in a psychiatric institution.
Holden clings to the idea of the innocence of childhood and uses his little
brother and sister as examples, this is what makes him happy and care so much
for them.” I keep picturing all these little kids playing
some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and
nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And 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 cliff – I 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.”(Orwell 173).  Forrest faces major events
throughout his life with a childlike innocence as well, but his outcome is
different. He does have continuous success as he rolls with whatever life
throws at him (the Vietnam war, working on the shrimp boat, the deaths of loved
ones). He says, “My
momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what
you’re gonna get.”(03:39-03:46). The difference between how the two
characters look at life is key to their outcomes. Holden is negative, and he is
always a cynic who sees most people as “phonies”, while Forrest sees the good
in others and he rolls with the punches that growing up presents, making the
best out of bad situations. While Holden is immature, Forrest has a naïve
quality that makes him unaware of the bad things in the world. Both are
childlike and most comfortable with children because they can relate to them.
Phoebe is to Holden, what Forrest’s son is to Forrest. They loved them the
most. They each also cared strongly for one particular women, but those relationships
were not as successful.

            Holden
Caulfield and Forest Gump were both unlucky with love. They each had strong
feelings for a girl who did not feel the same way about them. Forrest Gump met
Jenny as a boy when she stood up for him against some bullies. They were close
friends all throughout their childhoods and they were always there for each
other. Jenny was a victim of abuse from her father and she left home as soon as
she was old enough. This devastated Forrest and his longing for her stayed with
him for years to come. Jenny would drift into his life, then out again, and
even though he was always there for her, she only loved him as a friend. Holden
and Jane Gallagher were also good friends when they were young. Throughout the
novel, Holden gives the impression that Jane was “the one”. He refers to her
often in a positive way, which is unusual for him. He gets upset when
Stradlater, a player, talks about going out with her and Holden attacks him.
Like Forrest was with Jenny, he was very protective of Jane, who incidentally
was also a victim of abuse from her stepfather. At the end of the movie,
Forrest gains Jenny’s love, but she was dying. Holden is rejected by Jane when
he tries to convince her to run away with him. In the end, both characters were
heartbroken as they lost these women.