Free Study Guide for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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Holden’s phone conversation with Mr. Antolini is very brief, for he is afraid his parents may return any moment and find him at home. Mr. Antolini quite nicely invites Holden to come over even though it is late at night. Holden rushes back to the room and discovers that Phoebe has turned on the radio. He asks if she would like to dance, and she jumps out of bed eagerly. After a while, when they are resting, Phoebe hears their parents come in and hurriedly switches off the light. Holden puts out his cigarette and hides in the closet. Their mother comes into the room to check on Phoebe, and Phoebe, to protect her brother, lies and says she has been smoking. When their mother finally leaves, Holden comes out of the closet. He tells Phoebe he is going and asks her to loan him some money. She willingly hands over all her Christmas money and Holden quite unexpectedly begins to cry. His tears flow for a long time, and when he finally stops, he sneaks out of the house.


Dancing seems to be an important activity for Holden. Earlier in the novel, he speaks about the various types of dancers and how he enjoys dancing with someone who can keep in step with him. It is not surprising then that Holden suggests that he and Phoebe dance to the music that is playing on the radio. Though dancing in the middle of the night seems strange, it is an experience that pleases both brother and sister. Despite the difference in age and height, they seem to move well together; while they are dancing, they are on similar wavelengths, just as when they are in conversation. The whole experience is soothing and enjoyed for Holden. For the first time in the novel, he momentarily feels connected, no longer alone. It cannot last, however, for Holden’s parents will soon be home.

This chapter is the third in a series that shows the close bond between Holden and Phoebe. Throughout the novel, Holden has spoken of his love and admiration for Phoebe. Now the reader sees it returned. Phoebe is even willing to lie for her brother, telling her mother that she was smoking in her room. When Holden tells Phoebe he needs money, she immediately gives up her Christmas fund. Phoebe loves Holden, and he knows it. Still her expressions of love touch Holden deeply.

At the end of the chapter, Holden almost wishes his parents would catch him sneaking out, though he does not have the courage to face them and explain on his own. Holden probably senses that he is breaking apart and needs to be caught.


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