Often in literature, authors will imitate existent works. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, this is definitely the case when one discusses the works of Tennessee Williams and J.D. Salinger. However, the similarities are most evident in each authors’ characters. One can say that Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire parallels Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye the most because both characters believe in falsehoods and lie throughout the two books, both use a material element to hide from the world and escape into these falsehoods, and each suffer mental breakdowns at the end of the book when they are forced to realize the truth.
Throughout CITR (Catcher in the Rye), Holden Caulfield makes himself believe the world is full of phonies and that he is the only one that is truly “real.” Holden uses this excuse to justify the fact that he cannot make friends when he says to the reader on many occasions that he doesn’t want to be friends with any followers or phonies. Also Caulfield uses phony as an excuse when he can’t get girls to go out with him. He forces himself to believe that there is nothing wrong with him but rather things wrong with everybody else. Holden cannot come to grips with the fact that he doesn’t like anything not because its too phony for him, but simply because he really doesn’t fit in. This can be attributed to the fact that he is at an awkward stage in his life. Also, even though Holden never says it and profusely denies it, he really wants to fit into society but can’t and makes up excuses for this societal void he feels. Throughout the book, Holden also lies to many of the characters to disguise the real reasons of many of his actions. For example, instead of telling a woman he meets on a train that he is going home because he has been kicked out of school, Holden tells her that he needs to go home to have an operation for a deadly tumor.
Blanch from ASCND (A Streetcar Named Desire) also makes herself believe many falsehoods. Blanche cannot believe that she is simply getting older so throughout ASCND, Blanche trys to appear young by wearing young clothes and caking her face with makeup. Also, she cannot come to terms with the fact she drove her husband, Allan, to commit suicide by shaming him when she found out about his secret liaisons with men. Blanche doesn’t want to feel guilt about Allan’s death so she convinces herself it wasn’t her fault. Dubois also conceals the fact from herself and from others that the loss of Belle Reve (a manor that had been in her family for years), the loss of her job (she was caught with a student), and her bad reputation are completely her fault and not anyone else’s. Blanche, just like Holden, never admits it but really wants to feel like she truly belongs and is loved. Also like Holden, Blanche lies to people to conceal the truth about her life. When Stanley inquires about her ties with a notorious hotel of prostitution, she profusely denies ever being there even though she has been there a number of times.
Also, Blanche feels like she isn’t loved so she makes up stories that young men are showering her with gifts. To hide from the world and escape into his lies, Holden uses a red hunting hat. Holden wants to feel like he is his own individual and not a follower or phony. When he wants to feel this way and escape into his world of lies, he puts on the hat because the hat makes him feel like an individual. One can infer this because the hat is described as sticking out because it is bright red. The hat also has earflaps which symbolize Holden’s determination not to hear the real truth. With this hat, he can isolate himself from the world and escape into his own lies. Also, Salinger uses the color bright red because red usually symbolizes a falsehood. Red also symbolizes something that is phony which is ironic because Holden is indeed the exact thing he says he hates about the world when he makes up phony lies.
In ASCND, Blanche uses the absence of light to hide the fact that she is indeed getting older. Throughout the novel, Blanche is mostly shown dimming down light and turning off light when she says it is too bright. From this, the reader can infer that this is just an excuse and Blanche not only doesn’t want people seeing what she really looks like but also doesn’t want them to see what she really is. She cannot admit to herself that she is irresponsible and commits sexual acts only because she is guilty over Allan. Dubois also doesn’t want herself or other people to think that she was the real cause of Alan’s death, even though this is true. Without this light, Blanche feels she can convince herself that nothing’s wrong.
At the end of CITR, Holden has a complete mental breakdown which is caused when Phoebe forces Holden to realize that the world that Holden fabricated from inside his red hunting hat is truly false. She makes him realize that he must grow up, he must take responsibility for his actions, and he must let the transition from childhood to adulthood take place. Phoebe also makes Holden realize that the world is not all phony and that Holden just used this as an excuse because he didn’t fit in. Holden cannot deal with this realization so he basically ends up at a psychiatric ward. Like Holden, Blanche is forced to realize that what she made herself to believe is indeed false.
It is Stanley who really forces this realization upon Blanche when he rapes her. When this happens, Stanley makes Blanche think and agonize about her sexually guilt over Allan’s suicide. Also, Stanley makes Blanche think that it was Blanche’s sexually inadequacies with Allan that made Allan look sexually towards men. The rape also makes Blanche realize she is not young and innocent anymore and hasn’t been for quite some while. Stanley’s rape basically shatters the delicate and controlled world Blanche has imagined herself to be living in. She is so overwhelmed by the guilt of these realizations that she too has a mental breakdown. At the end of ASCND, Dubois is taken away to a mental hospital.
As you can see, Blanche of A Streetcar Named Desire and Holden from The Catcher in the Rye have many of the same characteristics. Basically, the two characters make themselves believe in lies and falsehoods to disguise the hurtful truth that will shatter their world. However, they are forced to confront this truth at the end of the novel. Consequently, both characters suffer mental breakdowns. Not only can the reader see similarities in characters, but with a real examination of the two authors works, many similarities are seen in plot development as well.