Comparison Of Great Expectations And Catcher In The Rye

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It is not unusual to want to be a member of the upper-class society. When most children are asked what they want to be when they are older, they respond with a doctor or a lawyer. These kids do not know much about being a doctor or a lawyer, but they say they want these professions because they make a lot of money. Many children think they want a lot of money, so they are able to get the things they want and live a glorious life in the house they desire. Even adults’ goals are to make a lot of money and be a part of the upper class. These adults want to be able to provide for their families and spoil their children with glorious childhoods. People who grow up as upper class member view their class differently. While some upper-class members love their lifestyle, other upper-class members see the corruption in the social class. When somebody is not content with their social standing, they tend to try to change it or break away from their social class norms. This desire to change social classes or break away from social norms can result in the destruction of relationships with loved ones. In both Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, the desire to escape one’s social class causes strains on relationships with loved one’s.

In Great Expectations, Pip’s aspiration to be a member of the upper class ruins his relationships with his loved ones. When Pip was lying about going to Miss Havisham’s, Joe told him, “don’t you tell no more of ‘em, Pip. That ain’t the way to get out of being common, old chap.” (Dickens, 71). Pip’s wish to be a gentleman causes him to go against his morals. He lies to be around the upper class because he likes their lifestyle and wants to be a part of it. Pip will do anything to be a gentleman, even destroy his relationship with Joe. Lying to anybody could ruin a relationship, and Pip lied to Joe with this risk. When Joe goes to visit Pip in London, Pip “felt impatient of him and out of temper with him; in which condition he heaped coals of fire on my head.” (Dickens, 222). Pip was annoyed by Joe’s presence leading to Joe feeling uncomfortable in this upper class setting. Pip’s embarrassment of Joe made it clear he did not want or need Joe included in his new lifestyle. The way Pip favored the upper class over Joe resulted in their relationship and friendship being ruined.

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In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden wanting to escape the norms of his social class results in ruining his relationship with his parents and brother. When Holden describes his brother he said, “now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies.” (Salinger, 2). By “prostitute”, Holden means his brother is a phony for using his talent as a writer inappropriately. Instead of writing serious books, he writes scripts for Hollywood. Holden thinks that his brother is a sellout, giving up on his intellectual path he should have as a writer. Holden compares D.B. to a “prostitute” because he only works for money and a prostitute is someone who will do anything for money. Holden sees the phoniness in being a Hollywood writer and criticizes the profession. This criticism proves Holden does not just care about making a lot of money like an upper class member would care. The path D.B. took made it hard for Holden to respect and get along with D.B. because of how the upper class corrupted him. When Holden went on a date with Sally, he fantasized about going “to Massachusetts and Vermont, and”, then they could “stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that until the dough runs out. Then, when the dough runs out, I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all and, later on, we could get married or something.” (Salinger, 132). The fact that Holden did not want to live the normal life of an upper class member, shows he wanted to escape his social class. Holden saw how his parents and brother were living and knew he did not like that lifestyle. He would rather live a moderate life than be an upper class member, and his dislike towards the upper class strained his relationships with his family.

Pip’s love for Estella stems from his need to be part of the upper class causing tension in their relationship in Great Expectations. In the beginning of the story, Pip does not like when “she called me ‘boy’ so often, and with a carelessness that was far from complementary.” (Dickens, 56). Estella knows that she is in a higher social class than Pip leading to rudeness towards him. She does not think anything is wrong with the way she is treating Pip because she is being encouraged by Miss Havisham. Pip is blinded by Estella’s social ranking and sees her rudeness, but does not address her with the problem. Estella’s disrespect towards Pip and their unresolved problems caused tension in their relationship. When Estella tells Pip she is going to marry Drummle, she says “should I fling myself away upon the man who would the soonest feel (if people do feel such things) that I took nothing to him?” (Dickens, 362). Estella is trying to explain to Pip that shes know Drummle is stupid and mean, but he is rich. She thinks that if she cannot love she mine as well marry somebody with money. Drummle and Estella’s engagement devastated Pip because it means he will never get to be with Estella. Pip’s failure to be with Estella represents his failure as an upper-class member. Drummle and Estella’s engagement creates tension between Pip and Estella leading to the destruction of their relationship at the time.

Holden fancies Jane because she is different from the other girls in his social class, but is too nervous to actually be around her generating strain on their relationship in The Catcher in the Rye. Unlike many upper-class girls, Jane lived a harsh life with “this booze hound her mother was married to” and he was “the kind of guy that wouldn’t talk to you much unless he wanted something off you.” (Salinger, 78). Holden likes that fact that Jane is different than most of the upper-class females because he does not like his social class. He does not think Jane is corrupt by the upper class like many other girls because of her differences. Although Pip is attracted to these traits Jane has, he does not really have much of any relationship with Jane. Pip’s fear of contacting Jane prevents them from having a relationship. When Holden realizes Jane is Stradlater’s date, he keeps saying “I ought to go down and at least say hello to her”, but he ends up getting too nervous and tells Stradlater to “give her my regards.” (Salinger, 32, 33). Even though Holden really wants to see Jane, he is too scared to go and say hello. Holden seems to be very excited about seeing Jane and then he will not even go down to say hi to her. Holden likes Jane because she is different than most girls in the upper class, and Holden is able to understand the corruption in his social class. The problem with their relationship is that it is almost non-existent because Holden gets nervous and awkward around her.

Many members of the lower class push to raise their social status while some members of the upper class can see the corruption that goes along with the upper class. People of the lower classes only see the good parts of being an upper-class member such as money. The crave for money is very strong and people of the lower classes will practically do anything for it. Since lower class members do not take part in upper-class activities, they cannot see through the dishonesty of the upper class. Some upper class members love their lifestyle while others see through the phoniness. The people of the upper class who can see through the corruption tend to want to leave their social class. These people do not want to be part of the corruption and want to live humble lifestyles. No matter what the reason is, when people are unhappy with their social class, they are inclined to try to change it and make their situation better. The need to switch social classes causes strain on their relationships.       


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