Books Similar to The Catcher in the Rye

Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

'The Catcher in the Rye' is a coming of age novel with themes of sadness, isolation, and loss of innocence. In this lesson, we will look at novels and characters that take a journey to happiness similar to J. D. Salinger's character Holden Caulfield.

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye tells the story of Holden Caulfield and the events that happen to him 'around last Christmas.' The novel opens as Holden is kicked out of another boarding school. After a fight with his roommate, Holden spends a few days in New York before going home. While there, Holden tries several times to meet girls or buy alcohol but fails at both. Holden calls an old friend, Sally Hayes. When Sally too rejects him, Holden gets drunk and meets up with his sister, Phoebe. The two of them go to the zoo, and Holden says that he is actually happy. As the novel ends, one year has passed and Holden is receiving therapy.

Since its 1951 publication, Holden's story and its themes of innocence, youth, isolation, and sadness, have connected with many readers. It is not only these themes but also Holden's struggle to find his place in society and reconcile his disdain for the establishment. Coming of age stories focus on a character's journey from youth to adulthood. They also tell a journey of loss of innocence to maturity. There are many stories out there similar to Holden's. This lesson introduces novels similar in genre and themes to The Catcher in the Rye.

The Great Gatsby

Written in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is the story of Nick Carraway and his relationship with Jay Gatsby. At the beginning of the novel, Nick, like Holden, observes the society around him. He forms odd friendships, and there is a feeling that he is not really fitting in. He meets Gatsby, a man of mystery who throws large parties for the wealthy and holds onto an idealistic love for Daisy. As the two rekindle their old relationship, Nick watches as Gatsby becomes more desperate to please Daisy. Eventually, Daisy leaves Gatsby with no one but Nick. At the novel's end, Nick leaves to go home, reflecting on Gatsby and how we are all a little lost in the past and scared to move forward.

Like Holden, Nick shares a story of a time that changes him. Although Nick is already an adult, we see him mature and, like Holden, lose some of the innocence he had before meeting Gatsby. Nick sees the people around him as 'phony,' which is one of Holden's main problems. He feels like he does not fully fit into the wealthy society and knows that these new friends are not real relationships. Finally, like The Catcher in the Rye, 'The Great Gatsby also explores themes of innocence, isolation, and sadness.

On the Road

Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road also tells the story of a journey to find oneself. In the novel, Dean and Sal meet in New York and decide to take a road trip together to California. Over the next three years, the two travel across the country. Together they meet new friends, begin and end relationships, and mature. Sal begins the novel lonely and depressed, and by the end he finds happiness and even love.

Like The Catcher in the Rye, one of the main themes of On the Road is sadness. At the beginning of the novel, Sal is sad. Like Holden, he feels alone and and has a hard time making friends. Before Dean, he spends much of his time observing those around him. Like Holden, he isolates himself and has superficial relationships with others. However, we do follow Sal's coming of age journey to find himself, just as we follow Holden's. Once Sal lets Dean into his life, and he completes his journey on the road, he becomes much happier.

Fight Club

Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club focuses on the relationship between the narrator and Tyler Durden. The novel opens with the narrator being held hostage by gunpoint. As he suffers with insomnia and depression, he meets Tyler on a business trip. When the narrator returns home, he finds that his apartment has caught fire, so he moves in with Tyler. Together the two start a fight club, a group of men that meet to fight. In addition, they also develop side projects and eventually plan to take down the social structure.

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