The Life Song
The Catcher in the Rye and My Name is Asher Lev voice how society is a song, each member having his own verse. However, Holden Caulfield and Asher Lev demonstrate different and unique interpretations of their lines. Both books by J.D. Salinger and Chaim Potok use mediums, specifically Salinger’s profanity and lies and Potok’s Ladover Hasidic lifestyle, to show routine consistency, the protagonists’ integrity, and how society suppresses the individual.
To begin, profanity and Hasidism are used in their respective novels to create a rhythmic consistency of daily life. When the pattern breaks, the words notify the reader of a change of pace. Throughout the story, Holden Caulfield utilizes an unpleasant vocabulary which includes “like hell” and “goddam [sic],” among others. In this fashion, Salinger establishes a habit where the character finds comfort and familiarity, akin to the Levs’ tradition of Shabbos and singing the zemiros. Both authors break away from this uniformity to reveal a transformation in each character’s or family’s thoughts. For example, within the large part of a paragraph, Holden forgets his ubiquitous swearing when describing pleasant childhood memories about the Indian Exhibit in the Museum (Salinger 156-158). Similarly, because of the recent Lev family death, Aryeh does not remember to ask Asher “to say the Krias Shema,” as he usually does each night before bed (Potok 48). Both situations signal a divergence from routine, like when Holden remembers cheerful times instead of anger towards phonies and Aryeh’s heavy stress when dealing with his wife’s tragedy.
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