The characters Holden Caulfield and ForrestGump are the leads in two very popular and entertaining stories where theyshare their experiences, thoughts and feelings from their own perspectives. ForrestGump (1994) is a movie based off the original book of the same name thatwas written by Winston Groom in 1986. This film tells the story of Forrest Gumpwho is a simple man with a low I.Q. who recounts his eventful life story to astranger from his point of view. Several of his adventures are main historicalevents in United States history (e.g.
, teaching Elvis his dance moves, becominga hero in the Vietnam war, and visiting the White House several times). Holden’sstory does not contain such monumental events, but his story is stillmeaningful and just as entertaining. Catcherin The Rye is a story written by J.D. Salinger. It is about a boy named Holden Caulfield, whotells his story to the reader from his humourous perspective as he recalls whathappened in his few days in New York after being expelled from his privateschool. After many failed encounters with other characters, he later returnshome to meet with his younger sister, Phoebe. Through his experiences overthese few days, much is revealed about Holden’s troubled past and hispersonality.
Even though the way that Holden handles life’s obstacles is verydifferent than how Forrest deals with adversity, Holden Caulfield and ForrestGump are similar in several ways. Both characters get their hearts broken, areoften immature or child-like, and seen as socially awkward people. BothHolden and Forrest have an innocence about them as they struggle throughwhatever life throws at them with their childlike mindsets. As Holdencontinually tries to act like an adult (smoking, drinking, trying to have sex),he is not successful or happy. As an adultescent, he is stuck between adulthoodand childhood and he is not able to handle the normal stresses involved withthis stage of life. As a result, he ends up in a psychiatric institution.Holden clings to the idea of the innocence of childhood and uses his littlebrother and sister as examples, this is what makes him happy and care so muchfor them.” I keep picturing all these little kids playingsome game in this big field of rye and all.
Thousands of little kids, andnobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edgeof some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they startto go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look wherethey’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d doall day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”(Orwell 173). Forrest faces major eventsthroughout his life with a childlike innocence as well, but his outcome isdifferent.
He does have continuous success as he rolls with whatever lifethrows at him (the Vietnam war, working on the shrimp boat, the deaths of lovedones). He says, “Mymomma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know whatyou’re gonna get.”(03:39-03:46).
The difference between how the twocharacters look at life is key to their outcomes. Holden is negative, and he isalways a cynic who sees most people as “phonies”, while Forrest sees the goodin others and he rolls with the punches that growing up presents, making thebest out of bad situations. While Holden is immature, Forrest has a naïvequality that makes him unaware of the bad things in the world. Both arechildlike and most comfortable with children because they can relate to them.Phoebe is to Holden, what Forrest’s son is to Forrest. They loved them themost. They each also cared strongly for one particular women, but those relationshipswere not as successful. HoldenCaulfield and Forest Gump were both unlucky with love.
They each had strongfeelings for a girl who did not feel the same way about them. Forrest Gump metJenny as a boy when she stood up for him against some bullies. They were closefriends all throughout their childhoods and they were always there for eachother. Jenny was a victim of abuse from her father and she left home as soon asshe was old enough. This devastated Forrest and his longing for her stayed withhim for years to come.
Jenny would drift into his life, then out again, andeven though he was always there for her, she only loved him as a friend. Holdenand Jane Gallagher were also good friends when they were young. Throughout thenovel, Holden gives the impression that Jane was “the one”. He refers to heroften in a positive way, which is unusual for him. He gets upset whenStradlater, a player, talks about going out with her and Holden attacks him.
Like Forrest was with Jenny, he was very protective of Jane, who incidentallywas also a victim of abuse from her stepfather. At the end of the movie,Forrest gains Jenny’s love, but she was dying. Holden is rejected by Jane whenhe tries to convince her to run away with him. In the end, both characters wereheartbroken as they lost these women.