The Catcher in the Rye is a novel written by J.D. Salinger in 1951. It is told from the first person perspective of a young boy named Holden Caulfield, who is in a psychiatric facility after the events of the novel. Holden dislikes the world around him and his story reflects that. It explores themes such as growing up, the phoniness that comes with growing up, and alienation from peers as a means of protecting oneself.
Holden goes directly to Grand Central Station from Mr. Antolini's. There he sleeps on a bench until the noise of the morning commuters wakes him. He leaves the train station to wander along Fifth Avenue where he decides that he is going to move west to live in isolation with a deaf-mute wife. However, he knows he cannot leave without first saying goodbye to his sister. He walks to Phoebe's school to leave her a note asking her to meet him at the Museum of Natural History. She meets him in their in the afternoon, with her suitcase. Holden forbids her from traveling with him, thus making her distraught. To ease her stress he takes her to the zoo and the carousel in Central Park. There he sits on a bench, in the rain, watching her ride around the carousel.
Holden goes to Grand Central Station, from Mr. Antolini's and falls asleep on one of the benches in the waiting area. He is woken up the next morning by the influx of commuters and travelers. He decides to leave the train station, but has no where to go. Holden finds himself wandering Fifth Avenue, watching the children around him. He is also feeling more ill than he did the night before at Mr. Antolini's. He worries that he will pas out and, so, calls out to Allie, begging for moral and physical support. Holden decides to head west never to return home or to school. He imagines life out west with a deaf-mute wife. The two of them could live in relative anonymity and isolation. He realizes that he cannot leave without telling his sister, so he walks to her school to leave her note explaining his decision. He asks her to meet him at the Museum of Natural History at lunch so that he can return the money she lent him the night before. After dropping the note off in the office, he strolls through the school remembering his time there. He sees the words fuck you scrawled on a wall in the hallway. It upsets him to think that the young kids will see this as they walk through the halls on their way to class. He tries to rub it off, but is not successful.
Holden leaves the school to wait for Phoebe at the museum. He runs into two little boys who are looking for the mummy exhibit. Holden offers to escort them to the exhibit, but they run away as soon as they reach that part of the museum. Holden is left alone in the dark passage. He notices yet another fuck you written on the wall in the mummy exhibition's room. Dismayed by seeing this vulgar graffiti in another place frequented by young kids, Holden begins to contemplate someone writing those words on his tombstone when he dies. He leaves the exhibit to wait for Phoebe near the entrance, but stops in the bathroom where he faints. He recovers in time to find Phoebe waiting in the lobby of the museum with a large suitcase. She intends to go west with her brother. Dizzy and worrying about the possibility of fainting in front of his sister, Holden tells her that she cannot accompany him. Phoebe grows angry with her brother and returns his red hunting cap to him. Holden attempts to calm her down with a promise that he won't leave, but Phoebe doesn't believe him and begins to cry. He suggests that they go to the zoo so that she will relax and stop crying.
During their walk to the zoo, Phoebe walked on the opposite side of the street from Holden until they reached their destination. After viewing some of the animals, Holden takes her to the carousel and convinces her to ride on one of the horses. She chooses a battered, brown horse. He watches her from the park bench when it starts to rain. Holden continues to sit on the bench with his red cap on and finally feeling happy, despite the rain
That's all I'm going to tell about (213) Holden declares in the opening to this short chapter. He glosses over the details of what happened to him when he went home and became ill. He refuses to discuss his educational plans with the psychoanalyst because he still cannot relate present choices with future consequences. During one of D.B.'s visits, he asked Holden what he thinks about his nervous breakdown. He didn't know what to say to D.B. Holden admits that he still doesn't know what to think about it, but talking about it makes him miss the people he encountered.
Despite Holden's refusal to provide details about the events following the day in park, he does mention that he and Phoebe returned to their apartment and fell seriously ill. His parents admitted him to a rest home from which he is telling the story. In the fall, he is going to attend a new school where he thinks he will apply himself; however, he admits that he will not know until he is back in school and faced with the decision. His brother visited him last Saturday with his English girlfriend. When his girlfriend was in the bathroom, D.B. asked Holden what he thought about everything he endured. Holden didn't know what to say. He still doesn't know what he thinks about his breakdown. He concludes by expressing regret for having discussed the events of that Christmas, even with D.B., because talking about them induced nostalgia for the people in his tale.
Holden's nervous breakdown reaches its zenith in Chapter 25 after he wakes up in Grand Central Station. Not only is he feeling seriously ill, but he also feels surrounded by the ugliness and superficiality of the world: the profanity on the walls in Phoebe's school and in the Museum of Natural History as well as the crude behavior of the Christmas tree delivery men. Like in Chapter 16, Holden wanders through the city, confused and unsure of his initial purpose for leaving Pencey. His encounters with Phoebe and Mr. Antolini have increased the intensity of his existential crisis. The only person to whom he trusts himself is Allie. As he struggles with his impending illness, he silently cries to Allie for help. Combined with his fever induced delirium, his reaching out to Allie illustrates the extent to which he is divorced from his environment and the people who inhabit it. Holden resorts to the only strategy that he is equipped to utilize: running away.
However, Phoebe does not permit him to follow through with his plan. At first, when she arrives at the museum with her suitcase, her intended function is unclear. The reader can naturally assume that as the younger sibling, she needs her older brother. However, as seen throughout the text and particularly the latter sections, Holden needs Phoebe. Although she cannot necessarily articulate her perceptibility in adult terms, Phoebe is well aware of Holden's desperation and is extremely worried about him, as she expressed in Chapter 22-23. Phoebe's reaction to Holden's plan shocks him into recognizing, for the first time in the text, the consequences of his decisions. He begins to own his position as the big brother and assumes responsibility for her well being as seen by his taking her to the park.
Once he decides to stay, Phoebe returns his red hunting cap. This can be read on two levels, 1) the red hat acted as a surrogate Holden for Phoebe, and now that he is staying she no longer needs the hat, 2) she is reciprocating the love that Holden has shown her because she is aware of the red hat's significance to Holden. In the case of the second level of reading, this scene becomes even more poignant for Holden. To be more specific, up to this point in the novel, virtually everyone Holden encounters demands something of Holden without offering anything of seeming value in return. For example, Ackley wants Holden's attention, Stradlater wants Holden's intellect, and Mr. Spencer wants Holden's shame and regret. Phoebe, on the other hand, offers Holden a feeling security I exchange for the same. Essentially, they engage in the intimate, silent communication possible only between siblings who truly love each other. It is the connection for which Holden has been searching.
In Chapter 26, Holden refuses, again, to provide details of what happened after he and Phoebe left the carouse; however, he confirms the reader's suspicions that Holden is indeed telling his story from a sanitarium. When D.B. asked him how he felt about all that happened to him, Holden didn't know what to say to him. He tells the reader I don't know what to think about it (214), implying that he has quite a bit of work to do before he overcomes some of the problems that put in him in the sanitarium. However, the one thing he does know is that he misses everybody he encountered that fateful weekend.