Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Genre

By J. D. Salinger

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Coming of Age

Holden’s not quite the right generation to be saying, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” but he’d probably agree. While most coming-of-age stories show the main character’s movement from childhood (or youth) to adulthood (or young adulthood), Holden’s is more complicated—after all, growing up is about the last thing he wants to do.

Maybe what we could say instead is that Catcher in the Rye dumps us straight in the middle of Holden’s maturation: he’s lost his innocence, but he hasn’t quite made it to adulthood. In fact, making it to adulthood—which to him is synonymous with “phonyhood”—is about the last thing he wants to do. Only in the end, when he seems to realize that being an adults doesn’t have to mean being a phony, do we get the hint that he just might grow up after all.

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