Rescue Essay

It was a seven story building that had caught fire. The lower floors were used for offices and shops. In the three upper floors people were living with their families. There were several families living in the flats.

The fire started in a paint go down on the first floor. How it all started nobody knew. The fire was noticed only when it began to rage. It was an ungodly hour when the fire broke out. The fire was noticed first by a night watch man who raised an alarm. He phoned up promptly for the fire service and police. It was sometime before the fire engines came to the scene. By then the fire had spread to the other floors. Between fire and smoke there were cries of anguish and despair. People were at first rescued with the help of ladders and lifts. In the confusion that prevailed nobody knew who was rescued. In such circumstances people tend to be very selfish.

The fire fighters thought they had rescued all. Then suddenly a lady remembered that her child who was sleeping in the cradle had not been rescued. One can understand her anguish and pain. She began beating her breast and wailing, thinking that her baby would have perished by then in the fire. One of the firemen did not lose hope. He told the lady assuredly that if the child was still alive he would go and surely save it.

He drenched himself with water, got up the ladder in spite of the warning given by his colleagues. Walls were crumbling down and beams were falling and tongues of fire were still to be seen. Worst of all there was a thick pall of smoke. The man managed to get a foothold on a window. He got into the room and with great difficulty he was able to locate the cradle. It was a miracle that the fire had not done much damage to the side where the cradle was located. He took the screaming child rolled it in a wet blanket which he had brought. He quickly strode to the window and called his colleagues who were waiting anxiously below with a foam mat. He threw the valuable bundle down. His colleagues caught it with dexterity and the child was moved to a place of safety. No words can explain the joy of the mother.

In the meantime the fireman slipped down the ladder. In spite of the precautions he had taken, there were burns on his body. He was promptly taken to the hospital and given proper treatment. In appreciation of his service the highest civil authority rewarded a sum of money to him. That was the proudest moment in the life of the fireman . Everybody was saying that he would get the President's Medal for his courageous act.

Explain the idea “Holden is a great rescuer, but fails to rescue himself.”  How does Holden’s character change during the course of the novel?

In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger perfectly captures a teenage boy’s struggle with adolescence. The story is told from the perspective of Holden Caulfield, who is widely regarded as “…the original sullen teenager” (National Public Radio, 2008). Throughout the novel, Holden takes the reader through a few days of his life, in which he flaunts his hostile attitude to the reader. Over the course of his journey, there is a subtle, yet important, pattern. The Catcher in the Rye includes the constant motif of Holden Caulfield rescuing others, while failing to rescue himself.

In the novel, Holden finds opportunities to rescue others, but he never focuses on bettering himself. For example, he highly respects women when it comes to sex. He explains that, when girls tell him he is going too far with them, he always stops because he “…get[s] to feeling sorry for them…they tell [him] to stop, so [he] stop[s]” (Salinger, 1951, p. 50). Later on, when Holden has his encounter with the prostitute, he pities her and does not desire to do anything sexual with her. He treats women as though he is trying to save their sexual purity. However, this does not help Holden at all. He saves these girls, but, as a result, he never has the opportunity to lose his virginity.

Another, less superficial, example of Holden’s rescuing others instead of himself is the way he acts toward his little sister, Phoebe. Specifically, when Phoebe claims she is not going back to school, he insists, “You have to go back to school” (Salinger, 1951, p. 112). Although he sets himself up to ruin his life by quitting school, he cannot allow Phoebe to follow his same destructive path. He saves her academic opportunities, but fails to save his own.

Holden’s desire to rescue Phoebe supports the ultimate example of him being a great rescuer, but failing to rescue himself. Toward the end, when Phoebe asks him what he would like to do with his life, he explains his desire to be a “catcher in the rye” (Salinger, 1951, p. 93). His aspiration to save children from falling off a cliff greatly represents his desire to save innocence. He wants to rescue Phoebe, as well as these children, so he can rescue the purity he believes can only be found within an innocent child. However, he has given up on saving his own purity, as he believes it has been lost. As a result of this, “Holden channels his grief into altruistic fantasies of protecting those whose existence remains unmarred by graffiti, phoniness, certainty, and death” (Tolchin, 2007, p. 37). He fantasizes about saving the children in the rye field because saving them means preserving the purity left in the world.

Consequential to Holden’s desire to rescue others, specifically their purity, he loses sight of the importance in rescuing himself. He does not believe himself to be pure, so he gives up on himself. Because of this, it seems that Holden’s character does not change throughout the novel. He remains static, his “…voice is the same at the end of his retelling as it is at the start,” and “He seems to have learned very little…” (Brooks, 2004, p. 357). By the end of the novel, it seems as though Holden will continue to rescue others and fail to recognize that it is he who needs rescuing.

Works Cited

Brooks, B. (2004). Holden at Sixteen. Contemporary Literary Criticism, 80(3), 353-357.
National Public Radio (2008, Jan. 20). Holden Caulfield: Giving voice to generations. National
Public Radio Books. Retrieved from
Salinger, J.D. (1951). The Catcher in the Rye. Retrieved from
Tolchin, K.R. (2007). Optimism, Innocence, and Angst in the Catcher in the Rye. Children’s
Literature Review, 181, 33-45.

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