The Cyclical Nature of Running Away: Holden Caulfield and Francis Weed
In both “The Country Husband” and The Catcher in the Rye, Francis Weed and Holden Caulfield attempt to escape the cyclical nature of their societies, but are ironically brought back to a routine lifestyle that is both predictable and blatantly understood by both protagonists. Both struggle to fight through the cage of false appearances and uniformity, attempting to reinvent their monotonous personalities and extricate themselves from their irrational peers. By running away and obtaining characteristics foreign to their natural personalities, Francis and Holden ironically revert back to the cyclical nature of their rejected societies, their rebellions unable to overcome the compelling cycle of monotony.
Holden Caulfield, unable to tolerate the brainwashing nature of his teen peers in high school, rejects the “stupidity” of trying to fit in, an ungraspable concept to the teenager with rationally-based sentiments. Believing his knowledge of the corrupt society contrasts the other teenagers’ ignorance to their issues, Holden “didn’t have any goddamn choice except to leave” (Salinger 98). Hypocritically, Holden leaves because of the lack of acceptance, proving that although he claims he does not desire to fit in, his intentions are to find a society in which he feels accepted. His roommate Stradlater, the jock opposite Holden, maintains his habitual shaving routine with a razor that “he never cleaned or anything” (Salinger 31). Each boy follows a strict routine that is unnatural to Holden as they do not stray from their predictable patterns of character and actions. The nature of the general structured society repulses Holden as his individuality and rational thoughts are (in his mind) superior to the social standards followed subconsciously by everyone else.
Ironically, as Holden escapes from his own routine-based school and social life, he revisits once again another area of sameness and perpetual routine. The carousel, representing each race and kind of person all rhythmically moving to the same song of –– calls to him, leading him back to his social cycle. Running away from his previous setting drives Holden to run to the same rhythm of the carousel, once again falling into the path of routine as he ends the story looking out at his sister, just as the other indistinguishable adults. Holden watches his sister, caught in the circle of childhood, “go around and around,” just as the other children follow. Although Holden originally rejected the never-ending carousel of childhood, he returns to the cycle. His character, even though it undergoes mental reevaluations and irrational decisions, never altered from the beginning as it reverts back to its original cycle. Subconsciously, Holden reverts back to the typical teenager he rejects while seeking comfort from his family, the foundation of the average American society.
In “The Country Husband” Francis Weed ironically tries to change his personal routine after his near-death awakening, but in the end ends up in the same marital structure he began in. He begins to notice the daily routines of his neighborhood, exclaiming his dislike of them, constantly seeking out the negativity in his neighborhood. The identical family homes all housing perfectly-appearing couples and families strikes Francis as unnatural and within him arouses a rebellion that he executes with the rejection of his marriage, and the lust for an untouchable woman. His actions speak louder than his words as he unreasonably seeks a relationship with his children’s babysitter. Although his lust grows for her, this new feeling resulting from his mental awakening is nothing more than experimentation just as the rest of his neighbors. His feelings, based on a social rebellion resulting from the hatred of the cyclical relationships of his town, are nothing more than meaningless lust.
Overall, Francis Weed’s duty still remains with his children, and the typical parties and fatherly obligations still define his life. As he begins to run his family life off its normal tracks, he cannot cope with the mental instability that follows, leading him to seek counseling, a coping mechanism common among the stereotypical American. The way his family ceases to care of Francis’ problems is another moment of his awakening that startles him to the point of reconsidering his relation to his children and wife. He “doesn’t like to come home every night to a battlefield,” but when his children refrain from acknowledging his personal tragedy, it becomes clear his family is under a spell of ignorance along with the rest of his neighbors (Cheever 204). Temporarily giving in to his obsession, Francis also haunts a younger woman, almost a girl, and “did this nearly every night.” After his experimentation with his rebellious lust, Francis spends “another evening among his kind neighbors,” the invariant neighbors whom Francis attempted to desert (Cheever 205).
Although both Francis and Holden run from their seemingly poisonous settings, they end each of their journeys in a state of vulnerability they possessed at the beginning of their escapes. Each man subconsciously aspires to be an anomaly of their societies, but only differ from their peers in their awakened knowledge of the cyclical nature of their own cities. Both men run from the fear of the cyclical world, yet end up in an alternate monotonous schedule. Francis and Holden both recognize that the objects of people’s desires there are mundane, and therefore judge the outside world harshly. It is only after each story that the authors present the notion that although people try to seek individualism, sameness is inevitable.
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