The theme of alienation is relevant in both "The Catcher in the Rye" and "The Grapes of Wrath. It is an idea presented very prominently in both books, expressed through characters, actions, and events. The Catcher in the Rye focuses on Holden Caulfield, a socially inadequate, sixteen year old boy who distances himself from others as a display of mental superiority driven by the idea he possesses that everyone is a phony, while he appears to be the only one who has remained genuine and authentic in today's society. Like The Catcher in the Rye, a significant subject of The Grapes of Wrath is isolation from modern culture.
The Joad family, upon their arrival in California, are estranged and avoided because they are labeled as "Oakes" on account of their origination from Oklahoma. They are regarded as dirty, unwanted people, on a quest to take advantage of prospering California. They are treated as though inferior mainly because of their socioeconomic status, which is considerably lower than the farmers of California. Though Holden Caulfield's alienation from others is intentional, while the Joad family is inadvertently segregated, the motif of isolation is still pertinent in both novels. Holden's dissociation from his few friends and anyone else he encounters is based on his belief that everyone is a phony and he is above them on some level because he is capable of observing this phoniness and avoiding it, and the Joad family is discriminated against because of their being from Oklahoma. The motives of the Joad family and Holden, however, are completely opposite.
The Joad's strive for acceptance in California from anyone who thinks poorly of them, when Holden's intentions are to be cynical and to disregard the phonies with his eccentric personality. Another significant difference in both The Grapes of Wrath and The Catcher in the Rye with regard to isolation are the forms of isolation, which are presented. Holden is mentally isolated, avoiding social situations and even when in them, distancing himself from people with the conviction that whomever he may be associating with is not worth his time, while the Joad family is physically outcast. The police force in the area turn them away when they ask for assistance and burn their camps as a display of superiority and as a way of physically secluding them from California natives. Again this presents the point that Holden chooses to estrange himself as the Joad's would much rather be received by people without hostility and the intention of driving them away. Yet another contrasting component of these books is the theme of alienation and separation from contemporary society portrayed again in the later chapters of the novels.
Holden remains a loner, judging those he encounters and never fully comprehending that he is virtually discontinuing whatever social existence he may have had, as the Joad family eventually reaches the Weed patch camp where they are finally treated as equals and are able to adhere themselves to something solid. It is a government camp in which they are no longer denied equal opportunity and acceptance. Thus a prominent difference lies within the conclusion of The Catcher in the Rye and a very important event that takes place in The Grapes of Wrath. Though there is many more contrasting than similar elements involving alienation in these novels, it is still a recurring theme that is shared in both. In conclusion while the Grapes of Wrath in relation to social isolation focuses much more on acceptance among those who are conceivably "superior" or different, The Catcher in the Rye's main character's intentions are to be excluded from societal functions and people themselves.