Currently Browsing: Psychology

The Angst Genre

A BBC article published on the 100th anniversary of the Albert Camus’s birth argues that a genre of literature centering around angst and isolation from society appeals to teens exploring their own identities.

BBC reporter Tom Hayden credits the birth of this “genre” to Camus’s The Stranger, a story about a murderer who fails to grieve his own execution.

The article lists other influential classics that fit the criteria for this genre—The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Catch 22, The Bell Jar, and Brave New World.

The novels all have one common theme: exclusion.

Although we can concur that most teens can’t literally relate to feeling numb about their upcoming execution, reading about characters who are working through feelings of isolation and indifference may be attractive to high school students.

High school, after all, has many facets of exclusion. It can be a wonderful time—but it invariably comes with isolation for even the most popular cheerleader or baseball star. It’s a stuck-in-the-middle age. You’re old enough to worry about adult responsibilities like a career, but not really old enough to do anything about it.

Couple this with the raging hormones and narcissism that’s characteristic of 17-year-olds, and you get one huge identity crisis that is characterized by the notion of feeling completely unique from the rest of society.

Teens who read about characters dealing with complete isolation are probably looking to validate their feelings or make a statement, not necessarily to learn. However, some knowledge will probably seep through by reading the classics, regardless of the reader’s motives.

Angst on, class of 2014.