The Book of Daniel

Holden Caulfield and Daniel Issacson: Much in Common?

Daniel Issacson, the narrator of Doctorow's The Book of Daniel, is perhaps not as beloved and well-known as Holden Caulfield, the voice behind Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. It could be that we can empathize more easily with a misguided teenager than a moody, radical adult. Nonetheless, Daniel and Holden have much in common. Both are faced with a past in which a senseless death shapes their view of the present; they become the walking wounded, it's them versus the world. Holden and Daniel stumble through their worlds pursuing a mission that they cannot seem to complete. It is this failure that torments them both.

Holden and Daniel were both faced with death at an early age. For Holden, it was the death of his younger brother, Allie. Allie's death isn't mentioned until about forty pages into the book, but once we learn of it, we gain a greater sense of who Holden is, and why he struggles. Allie died of leukemia, a death that was beyond his - or anyone else's - control. Allie was not at fault for his death. He didn't deserve it, and Holden couldn't protect him from it. He died as an innocent child, and from this, Holden's mission is born: he becomes the catcher in the rye. He is to protect...

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