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The forthcoming of American literature proposes two distinct Realistic novels portraying characters which are tested with a plethora of adventures. In this essay, two great American novels are compared: The Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain and The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. The Adventures of Huck Finn is a novel based on the adventures of a boy named Huck Finn, who along with a slave, Jim, make their way along the Mississippi River during the Nineteenth Century.
The Catcher In The Rye is a novel about a young man called Holden Caulfield, who travels from Pencey Prep to New York City struggling with his own neurotic problems. These two novels can be compared using the Cosmogonic Cycle with both literal and symbolic interpretations. The Cosmogonic Cycle is a name for a universal and archetypal situation.
There are six parts that make up the cycle: the call to adventure, the threshold crossing, the road of trials, the supreme test, a flight or a flee, and finally a return. There are more parts they do not necessarily fall into the same order, examples of these are symbolic death and motifs. The Cosmogonic Cycle is an interesting way to interpret literature because is Universal or correlates with any time period and any situation. The Call to Adventure is the first of the Cosmogonic Cycle. It is the actual “call to adventure” that one receives to begin the cycle.
There are many ways that this is found in literature including going by desire, by chance, by abduction, and by being lured by an outside force. In The Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck is forced with the dilemma of whether to stay with his father and continue to be abused or to leave. Huck goes because he desires to begin his journey. In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden mentally is torn between experience and innocence, it would seem to him that an outside force is luring him to do something but in actuality he is beginning his journey because of his desire. The Call to Adventure is the first step in the Cosmogonic Cycle, it is the step at which the character or hero is brought into cycle. The Threshold Crossing is the second step, it is the place or the person that which the character crosses over or through into the Zone Unknown. The Zone Unknown being the place where the journey takes place. The threshold crossing is often associated with a character change or an appearance change. An example of this is in The Wizard of Oz, when the movie goes from black and white to color, showing a visual symbolic death. A symbolic death is another part to the Cosmogonic Cycle of which the character goes through a change and emerges a more complete person or more experienced. In The Adventures of Huck Finn, a symbolic death is very apparent during the scene in which Huck sets up his father’s cabin to look like Huck was brutally murder. Huck emerges as a runway child and now must be careful of what he does, so that he does not get caught. Huck also tells people false aliases for himself so that no one knows his true identity. Every time that he does this he is symbolically dying and reemerges a more experienced person. In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden also uses fake names, but Holden symbolically dies through fainting, changing the position of his red hunting hat, and is associated with bathrooms. The bathroom motif, or the reoccurring appearance of a bathroom, symbolizes death for Holden because he enters bathrooms with a neurotic and pragmatic frame of mind and exits with a cleared mind. The use of symbolic death and motifs is associated with the Threshold Crossing, the second step of the Cosmogonic Cycle. The Road of Trials is the next step in the Cosmogonic Cycle, which are the obstacles which the character faces throughout the literary work. In The Adventures of Huck Finn, Huck’s Road of Trials occurs on the Mississippi River. He faces many obstacles, including moral decisions of right and wrong, dealing with con-artists, and helping a runaway slave. He promulgates more experienced from his journey down the river on his raft. In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden’s Road of Trials takes from Pencey Prep to New York City. Holden deals with his own mental hallucinations, cognative disotience, and his desire to stay innocence, his Peter Pan complex. The author does not end the novel with a happy ending, from analyzing Holden’s experiences we can assume he emerges a more complete and understanding person once he came to the realization. The road of trials is the third step of the Cosmogonic cycle in which the character or hero faces hardships or endeavors and becomes more complete and experienced. The Supreme Test or the Ultimate Test, is the forth step of the Cosmogonic Cycle where the character or hero is faced with a dilemma of enormous proportions, often found in the Zone of Magnified Power. The Zone of Magnified Power is found within the Zone Unknown but is a place which has mystical and mysterious powers, such as the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. Huck is faced with the moral predicament of slavery throughout the entire novel. This test or question continues to arise many times throughout the novel. Huck is torn between right and wrong, in fact he almost turns Jim, the runaway slave, in during his quest on the river. In the end, Jim is captured and Huck decides to free Jim by breaking him out of the confinement. In a sense Huck accomplishes his Supreme Test by doing what he feels is morally right. On the other hand, Holden’s Supreme Test is to accept growing up. He does not want to grow up but takes in experience. The novel shows his dilemma through the glass motif, the reoccurring presence of glass, glass being the symbol through which one stops watching through and experiences. He consistently tries to erase the “f k yous” written everywhere and comes to a realization when he can’t erase one because it is out of his reach and behind the “glass.” The glass motif also appears when his brother, Allie, dies. When he is in the garage, he breaks the “glass” garage door windows, essentially trying to escape his anger. The consequence is that he ends up more confused than before even though he now has a realization. The Supreme Test is often the high point of a literary work and the character or hero usually receives some kind of reward after being successful. The fifth and sixth parts of the Cosmogonic Cycle, the flight or flee and the return, can be combined into one instance. After the character completes his obstacles and Supreme Test, he is allowed to return to reality, the real world. Huck and Holden are both social misfits and want to escape civilization. Huck chooses to leave and “light out for the new territory.” On the other hand, Holden has nowhere to “light out” to, because the Twentieth Century America has no new territory, consequently he is placed in a mental institute. The return home is the reinstitution to reality as a more experienced and whole person. William Wordsworth emphasizes in his “Ode to Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood,” using the following lines: “Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind;” That we must put our idealistic picture of the world behind us and must look at the world behind us and must look at it in a more realistic plane. Children have an innocent perception of the world around them, but as adults we realize the world is not black or white but various colors. The Cosmogonic Cycle can be compared to the metamorphosis which a caterpillar goes through. The caterpillar starts out innocent (black and white) and goes through stages or obstacles to become a butterfly. The caterpillar emerges colorful as well as more complete and experienced.
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