Light in August vs The Catcher in the Rye: a Literary Comparison

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

“Light in August” by William Faulkner and “The Catcher In The Rye” by J. D. Saling’’’’’er possess qualities that constitute as good fiction and other times, they tend to stray away from being just that, good fiction. Whether or not fiction is considered good or bad fiction, it can be made up of several criteria, from the ability to make the reader feel emotions he or she had no idea they could feel to being able to create specific obstacles within a storyline that brings emotion and said character together to embrace a newfound respect for themselves. The criteria that will allow it to be explored by both novels mentioned above are as followed, respectively, the ability to be able to make the reader feel the five senses, including but not limited to, touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing. Another criteria that makes or breaks a fictional story is the ability to make a reader feel emotions and for them to come to the realization that in order to really connect with the characters in said fictional novel, it’s necessary to go through the highs and lows of the character in question. This makes them come to life and relatable to real life situations. Last but not least, creating obstacles in which a character like Lena Grove, a pregnant teen, from “Light In August” makes something of her current situation by going into a partnership with a man she’s never met before and buying and selling illegal alcohol. Each criteria has a way to bring a fictional novel to seem realistic and other times, the criteria steers away from realistic and more towards detached and unemotional.

In “Light In August” by William Faulkner, personally, it was very difficult for me to grasp whether or not Faulkner had the ability to immediately connect with his readers due to the inability to grab the reader’s attention with some of his characters and the way in which he chose to have them communicate with one another. “Then she says: “Folks have been kind. They have been right kind.” (P 8) This old English way of speaking in the novel forces readers to go back in time at an attempt to relate to a kind of language that was way before their time, thus proving to be difficult for any reader to immediately relate to. “Going back in time” towards the older English language and how characters interacted with one another during the time, spoke a truer testament to the time period in which they were in. Set in the early 1930s and in the Lafayette County of Mississippi, Faulkner took note of the fact that old English was derived from the language spoken from a time period in the South and tried to incorporate that into his novel. What he didn’t do was delving deeper into the minds of the readers that would be reading his novel years down the line. Reading languages change slowly over time and as a result of this, it’s important to follow the criteria of forcing the reader to connect with the characters of a novel on an emotional level and it’s difficult to do so when it’s equally as hard to understand the language spoken between two characters.

Having the ability to specifically describe the daily motions that Faulkner’s characters go through on a daily basis takes a great deal of effort and dedication. “And now he knows that she is watching him: the gray woman not plump and not thin, manhard, workhard, in a serviceable gray garment worn savage and brusque, her hands on her hips, her face like those of generals who have been defeated in a battle” (P 10). An important way in which Faulkner chose to connect with readers was in a descriptive way, filled with characters and colors that come to life with every sentence read.

Faulkner created more than enough obstacles for his characters to overcome with perseverance and resilience. When very pregnant Lena Grove runs away from her home in Alabama due to the curiosity of finding the father of her baby, Lucas Burch, she’ll do anything to find the means to support herself and her unborn child. “…I come from Alabama.” “Alabama? In your shape? Where’s your folks?” (P 8) Just by taking a quick look at Lena, then stranger Byron Bunch can even tell that Lena was in no shape to be travelling, let alone working, in the current physical state she was in. “Perhaps he realized that he could not escape. Anyway, he stayed, watching the two creatures that struggled in the one body like two moon-gleamed shapes.” (P 111) Faulkner chooses to describe the meaning of the affair between Christmas and Miss. Burden in a way that both depicted their affair and characters true personas that he chose to bring out during intense scenes such as this one.

In “The Catcher In The Rye” by J. D. Salinger, Salinger chose to bring his characters to life by expressing the utmost respect to his characters’ senses. The novel begins with the protagonist talking to readers from a mental hospital and describes Christmas time during the colder weather in California, emphasizing on his previous years wintertime. “Anyway, it was December and all, and it was cold as a witches teat, especially on top of that stupid hill…The week before that, somebody’d stolen my camel’s-hair coat right out of my room, with my fur-lined gloves right in the pocket and all” (P 2). Salinger chooses to connect with his readers by depicting every inner thought and physical movement of his character as lifelike and this shows an almost immediate connection between reader and character. This also ties into the fact that along with an immediate connection between the reader and character due to being extremely descriptive, it shows the attachment Salinger feels towards his characters. “Do you blame me for flunking you, boy?” he said. “No sir! I certainly don’t” I said. I wished to hell he’s stop calling me “boy” all the time. This depicted the discomfort Salinger felt for his character, Holden Caulfield, and how much he disliked being referred to as something other than his name. This made his character connect with any reader that ever felt this level of discomfort and certainty that he or she did not appreciate being referred to as something other than anything familiar to them. The ability for Salinger to create obstacles within his characters and their development throughout the story proved to be successful.

Based on the way in which Caulfield presents himself and his sense of maturity, it shows that he was in no rush to grow up. The way other adult figures in the novel are presented, strayed Holden to be even more hesitant on growing older and facing all the responsibilities that accompanied it. “He was a virgin if I ever saw one. I doubt if he ever even gave anybody a feel” (P 21). Although Caulfield himself is a virgin and would be extremely childlike whilst on the topic of the female gender and their sexuality, he was quick to jump on any occasion to “belittle” another character that made attempts to court a woman. Salinger characterized Caulfield as being the first to speak up on an issue that he clearly had no background knowledge on, but the last to take the plunge to gain that knowledge on. The obstacle made for Holden was the fact that he could never own up to his constant self-reassurance of his experiences in life.

“Light in August” by William Faulkner and “The Catcher In The Rye” by J. D. Salinger are both fictional novels that set criteria’s for themselves that either prove to be true or ineffective in each author’s way of writing. The criteria that will allow it to be explored by both novels mentioned above are as followed, respectively, the ability to be able to make the reader feel the five senses, including but not limited to, touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing. Another criteria that makes or breaks a fictional story is the ability to make a reader feel emotions and for them to come to the realization that in order to really connect with the characters in said fictional novel, it’s necessary to go through the highs and lows of the character in question. Lastly, creating obstacles gives the character(s) in question the chance to come to life and make use of the emotions they feel within themselves, as well as between themselves and a secondary character. Every criteria has one way or another to bring a fictional novel to seem more realistic but other times, the criteria steers away from realistic and more towards detached and unemotional.

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