Although they run into obstacles within their lives, they continuously strive for their American dream. The Catcher in the Rye and The Shawshank Redemption both revolve around the ideal of the American dream because they both signify the value of freedom, the goal of starting new lives with better opportunities, and finding happiness in their lives. The American Dream can not exsist without freedom. Freedom is the most quintessential trait that the dream promises to all citizens. In both of the works, the protagonists are confined in a place where they feel they do not belong in.
Pencey is to Holden as Shawshank is to Andy. As a result, they attempt to escape their institution and follow their natural instinct. "All of a sudden, I decided what I'd really do, I'd get the hell out of Pencey right that same night and all... I yelled at the top of my goddamn voice 'Sleep tight, ya morons' I'll bet that I woke up every bastard on the whole floor. Then I got the hell out"(Salinger 28,29). Holden is frustrated with Pencey and decides to leave to a place in which he will find much more suitable.
He considers the school as an elaborate trap in which he is caught within a society of phoniness. Andy, on the otherhand, spends nearly two entire decades digging a tunnel every night that will lead to him out of Shawshank state prison. His patience and determination eventually leads to his success. When he steps out of prison for the first time in twenty years, he cannot help but cheer in his effort. As both characters strive for their freedom, they also strive for a successful life. In addition to freedom, Holden and Andy both want to be able to start their lives over in a better place.
The characters point out where they would like to go if they could at the moment. In the movie, Andy tells Red that if he were to ever get out of Shawshank, he would like to spend his life in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, down south by the Pacific Ocean. There, he would like to start a hotel and have Red join him. Andy also uses a fake identity he created for himself that he can uses as an alias so he will not be traced back to. With that same identity, he can manage the money he made during the laundering operation while he was in prison.
In the aftermath of the movie, Andy utilizes the American dream by making his fantasies a reality. Throughout the novel, Holden repeatedly explains where he would rather be than where he actually is at the moment. Near the end, Holden fantasizes about traveling West and building a cabin where he can falsly live as a deaf mute so he no longer will have to deal with other people. "I'd start hitchhiking my way out West... I figured I could get a job at a filling station somewhere... I'd build me a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life"(Salinger 106,107).
In American history, migrating to the West was a common sign of finding a more prosperous life and creating new opportunities for yourself and family. When the Calfornia gold rush began, it brought nearly 300,000 people to California in hope that they could strike fortune and become wealthy. Migrating also meant that some people couldn't deal with the lifestyles of either the North or the South, so they settled to move westward instead. It is much like Holden's retreat of society. He would much rather run away and make excuses then face his problems.
Holden and Andy seek out their dream location they would like to live at along with the happiness and joy of their lives. Continuing from new opportunities, the protagonists happen to be in the pursuit of happiness. Both characters are constantly placed in dire situations that make themselves feel depressed and miserable. While they live out their lives, they struggle and attempt to determine what they should do during their time on earth. Holden is undergoing identity and role confusion and Andy is in confinement.
Although much of their purpose is unknown, they have few moments of where they may enjoy life and look back at who they are. In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy locks himself in the warden's office and plays an Italian record over the intercom for all the other prisoners to hear. Even though he knows he will be disciplined for doing so, he still decides to follow through. As the warden and the guards try to enter the office, he ignores them and enjoys the music to make himself feel like a normal person again. It was an emotional moment for him that really showed he is looking for a reason to enjoy life for. In The
Catcher in the Rye, Holden brings his younger sister Phoebe to the carousel and watches her ride it. When it begins to rain, he watches his sister go around while getting soaked. All of a sudden, just seeing his sister gets him all happy it nearly gets him to start crying. "I felt so dam happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was dam near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth"(Saligner 114). At this point, Holden's love and concern for his sister causes him to become affectionate. His sister is what keeps him happy though he is confused throughout his life.
Holden and Andy both find meaning in their lives through Phoebe and Red where the pursuit of happiness shows that everyone in America can make it and life worthwhile lives. In the end, the American dream is present in The Catcher in the Rye and The Shawshank Redemption because the desire for freedom, improved lives, and happiness are all incorporated within them. Holden tries to escape from his phony society at Pencey and travel west where he can live the rest of his life as a deaf mute in a cabin, however, he eventually finds happiness in his life after watching his sister Phoebe on the carousel.
Andy dreams of life on the outside world while listening to a record and escapes one night to start a hotel near the Pacific coastline in Mexico with his friend Red. Both characters have found many obstacles on their journey to fulfilling their wishes. Neither once did they completely give up and quit following their natural instinct. With the amount of effort and determination, they have conquered and found their American dream.