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Genre of The Catcher in the Rye Video

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  • 0:03 Holden Caulfield's Complaints
  • 0:50 A Coming-of-Age Novel
  • 2:06 The Audience of the Novel
  • 3:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Anna Hiller

Anna has taught world literature in several universities and has a Ph.D. in Spanish Literature.

'The Catcher in the Rye' is a novel, but what kind of a novel is it? This lesson explores how the novel is defined in general terms as a genre, and discusses the unique qualities of the book and its protagonist-narrator, Holden Caulfield.

Holden Caulfield's Complaints

Teenagers have a lot of bad days. Sometimes, when you're a teenager, it seems that life is simply a string of bad days that will never get better. Our protagonist from The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, would definitely agree. Holden isn't an optimist. In fact, he pretty much hates everyone and everything - except his little sister Phoebe and maybe a few books that he's read. Holden's full of complaints. One could look at The Catcher in the Rye as a novel made up of Holden's long list of complaints about American postwar society and culture. Holden Caulfield is perpetually dissatisfied. He has no trouble expressing it - repeatedly - to anyone who will listen, including other characters in the book, as well as us, the readers.

A Coming-of-Age Novel

What kind of novel is The Catcher in the Rye? What makes it so unique? We can safely say that the main attraction of the novel is its narrator, Holden, who has so much to say about the difficulty of getting along with 'phoney' people in a 'depressing' world. Holden's voice - the style in which the book is written - is part of what has made the book a classic. Holden's story is, to some extent, every teenager's story of pure discontent.

Because of its teenage protagonist and subject matter, The Catcher in the Rye is what we call a coming-of-age novel in which a young person has an experience that promotes their maturation and a change in their attitude towards the world. The coming-of-age novel usually observes a character taking a step towards adulthood. By the end of the novel, the reader usually can see a change in the personality of the main character that demonstrates some degree of psychological maturation. This type of narrative can also be described as the story of the education of a character. This is rarely an education that you get in school, but is rather an education that happens when life presents a challenge. That certainly is the case for Holden! He has a few really rough days in the novel, and he tells his story with a lot of detail. But who is listening to his tale?

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