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An Analysis of Archetypes within Lord of the Flies and the Catcher in the Rye

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In today’s society adolescents face numerous problems that not only affects them physically, but also mentally. In Lord of the Flies written by William Golding, and The Catcher In the Rye by J.D Salinger, the protagonist’s face several conflicts throughout the novels. Ralph, the main character in Lord of the Flies, must gain the respect of others as well as keep them focused on the goal, to get rescued from the island that he along with other children were left stranded on after a horrific plane crash during the time period of World War 2. In order to get rescued, Ralph and his closest friend Piggy must decide to either conform and lose their innocence, or rise above and be the leader that they all desperately need.

Similar to Ralph, Holden from The Catcher in the Rye embarks on a quest to find out who he is and what his role in society is after being excluded from various schools. His fear to enter adulthood and lose his innocence is a barrier he faces throughout the novel. Now although Salinger and Golding have different perspectives about how one may lose their innocence, they both acknowledge the difficulties that adolescents face including growing up and accepting new responsibilities and having the constant need to feel apart of something larger. First, Salinger and Golding both have different perspectives on how one may lose their innocence. In the novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the boys turn to darker more primitive ways to attain status and power. The loss of innocence represents the darkness engulfing the light, a key theme present throughout the novel and seen mainly throughout the character of Jack, the antagonist.

Jack’s ability to kill persuades the younger children to follow his lead rather than Ralph’s. After a while, the younger children begin to also enjoy the slaughtering of the pigs as they scream “Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood” (Golding 72). The images of the red blood spilling out symbolizes the loss of the pigs’ life as well as the loss of their innocence. As the act of killing represents the loss of innocence in the novel, it differs from Salinger's idea that once children step into adulthood, their innocence is lost. In addition, in order for Jack to hunt down a pig “He made one cheek and one eye-socket white, then rubbed red over the other half of his face and slashed a black bar of charcoal across (...)”(Golding 66). Here the colour white is associated with innocence and purity but is quickly taken over by the red and black that symbolize chaos and death. The war colours Jack paints his face with conceals his true identity, representing the theme of appearances versus reality as it helps him to take on the role of a savage. As the younger children wear the war paint it compels them to do unutterable things that they normally would never do, and lose their innocence as it compels them to kill.

However, unlike Jack, Holden from The Catcher in the Rye sets out to protect the innocence of younger children as “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all” (Salinger 173). Salinger suggests that every child will sooner or later “fall off the cliff”, which is a concept that Holden has difficulty understanding and accepting. Once again, this is in clear contrast to Golding who believes that one does not lose their innocence naturally. Ultimately, it is clear that Salinger and Golding have different beliefs and ideas on how one may lose their innocence and the darkness that may follow after it. Secondly, Golding and Salinger recognize the difficulties that adolescents may face when it comes to growing up and accepting new responsibilities. Due to the fact that no adults are present on the island, the boys are left with the decision to choose who will lead them and whom they will follow. After a vote, Ralph was left as chief. Unfortunately, this role did not last long as everyone would rather have fun and be like Jack and become a savage. However, Ralph’s determination and maturity is shown when he states to the others, “I’d like to put on war-paint and be a savage. But we must keep the fire burning”(Golding156).

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Instead of giving up and joining the savages, Ralph makes a hard and difficult decision to maintain his original position, despite the hate and the consequences that he may face later. However, Ralph believing in the fact that he may become chief again is unrealistic, similar to Holden who believes he can maintain the innocence of all the children. Both individuals realize that their dreams are impossible as Ralph cannot win against Jack, and that everyone will soon lose their innocence. Furthermore, Holden struggles with coming of age as “When I got to the museum, all of a sudden I wouldn’t have gone inside for a million bucks” (Salinger 122). Since the museum never changes but rather the person who enters, Holden is unable to enter due to his unwillingness to accept change as well as making the difficult transition to adulthood and accepting the responsibilities that come along with it. Holden and Ralph along with a large number of teenagers in today’s society are reluctant to grow up. At first, Ralph is just like the younger children, reckless and just wanting to have fun, but he soon recognizes that someone must be the adult figure and take responsibility. Just like the other boys, Ralph was fast to judge Piggy and criticize him for his size.

Ralph, later on, recognizes that he was in the wrong, unlike the other boys, representing his maturity. Salinger and Golding both include young individuals struggling with coming of age, as it allows young readers to relate to these characters on a personal level as well as help them understand the novel as a whole. Lastly, Salinger and Golding both display the outcast archetype in both of there novels with certain characters. In Lord of the Flies, Piggy, a realistic young man is quickly seen as an outcast due to his physical appearance. His knowledge poses a threat to others, such as Jack who lacks common sense and morality. Jack who believes he is superior to others, begins bullying Piggy for instance when he says, “Shut up, Fatty” (Golding 17). Right off the start Piggy is not only bullied, but also humiliated in front of all the children. Similar to Piggy, Ackley from The Catcher in the Rye is seen as an outcast from society as well.

Ackley, Holden’s roommate, is described as a lonely and very irritating. His negative characteristics along with his poor dental hygiene and other physical appearances keep him isolated from everyone except Holden. He does not try to create new relationships possibly due to past rejections, isolating himself even more from society. In addition, Holden also describes the outcast archetype as he refuses to conform to the norms and values of society. He never engages himself in his studies and as a result is kicked out of school because he refuses to the play as “life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules”(Salinger 8). Salinger implies that for one to advance in life, they must conform to certain rules, despite whether they agree with it or not as games aren’t always fair. This quote applies to Ralph as the game he’s playing isn't fair and as a result, he chooses not to play. With his decision set, he faces the consequences, such as being excluded and possibly facing death. Without the navy officer showing up at the end, Ralph’s life would have quickly ended due to the savages chasing after him with there spears sharpened and ready to be used. Salinger and Golding display the consequences that may arise from certain situations if one does not play the game right. With this in mind, Salinger and Golding touch an issue that once again teens face today and the mental impacts that it can have on an individual.

In conclusion, Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the Rye both exhibit several archetypes to further their plots and provide a younger audience with the ability to connect and relate to certain characters who display archetypes such as coming of age and the outcast. Despite both of these works identifying similar issues, they significantly differ from one another such as there outlooks on how one may lose their innocence. Both authors clearly display the struggles that adolescents face and the impact that it can have on one individual.

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An Analysis of Archetypes within Lord of the Flies and the Catcher in the Rye. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from
“An Analysis of Archetypes within Lord of the Flies and the Catcher in the Rye.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022,
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An Analysis of Archetypes within Lord of the Flies and the Catcher in the Rye [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2023 Dec 9]. Available from:
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