Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
To many contemporary readers encountering it for the first time, The Catcher in the Rye fits neatly into a classification called Young Adult Fiction. This is a category that includes serious novels dealing with teenage characters, and written with a teenage reading audience in mind.
Lumping Salinger's book together with thousands of others in this category, however, doesn't do justice to The Catcher in the Rye. When the book was published in 1951, there was no such category as Young Adult Fiction. Salinger attracted the attention of the reading audience because he was breaking new ground.
Not only did The Catcher in the Rye have a teenager for a central character; he spoke in a manner that was easily recognizable as genuine, and he talked about matters that were serious enough to make even the most complacent reader a bit uncomfortable. One of those matters was his inability to fit into the world of adults.
Such books may be very common today, but in 1951 a teenager talking about his innermost concerns was considered a somewhat eccentric literary device- a reviewer for The New York Times didn't even take the book seriously.
Salinger's novel was definitely a groundbreaker in its field. As you read it, try to envision the impact this novel had on its first readers back in 1951. If you're like most readers then, you'll learn much about yourself as well as about Holden Caulfield as you explore the world of The Catcher in the Rye.