“The quest may be the oldest plot pattern of all” says James Scott Bell in his wonderfully written book ” Plot & Structure- Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish”. He explains that in a “quest plot” story a hero goes out into a dark world and searches for something; a sacred item, a person, knowledge or some sort of inner peace.
This is evident when Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye searches for a reason to live in a world “of phony people”. Similarly, in life , we are all searching for something; a reason to live in a world of something we do not like, something that makes life difficult. And along the way, like Holden, we face a series of encounters -suffering setbacks as we move another step closer to our own objectives.
Many times our quest does not go well as we struggle to overcome those setbacks yet we carry on in perpetual search anyway. As our hero Holden begins his series of encounters with different people in the city we watch him fail in each connection. We see Holden get drunk after his date with Sally ends badly and we watch him freeze in Central Park at night where he thinks he will die of pneumonia.
Finally,when Holden sees his sister Phoebe, she asks him what he wants to be one day and he says ” a catcher in the rye” – someone who saves children from falling off a cliff. This statement reveals Holden’s uncertainty about his place in the world and makes us wonder if he even makes it in the end. Causing us to think , Salinger’s plot touches us -just as the author had hoped it would do.
“The quest mirrors our own journey through life”- James Scott Bell tells us. Like Holden, we also face different challenges in life and suffer setbacks (and even enjoy victories), and we strive to carry on ahead despite it all. So in life, just as Mr. Bell tells us in his book, we all have our own quest- whether we recognize it or not.