In The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, the passage from pages 169 to 170 depicts a scene between Holden and his sister Phoebe. The passage contributes to the development of the themes in the novel by painting a picture of Holden as very much a loner who is isolated, as many teenagers often feel that they are. One of his only friends is his younger but wiser sister, Phoebe, and he confides in her.
Holden is trying to justify his expulsion from Pencey and says that he did not like Pencey. Phoebe tells Holden that there is almost nothing that he actually does like. This statement upsets Holden. It probably touches a nerve because there is so much truth to it.
Because you don't. You don't like any schools. You don't like a million things. You don't.
Holden protests, telling her "That's where you're wrong—that's exactly where you're wrong!” In response, Phoebe challenges Holden to think of something that he likes, but his mind wanders. All that he can think of is an incident in which a schoolmate, James Castle, called another classmate, Phil Stabile, a "very conceited boy." Stabile and his friends tried to make James Castle “take it back,” but Castle would not. Holden and Salinger applaud Castle here for his honesty and for remaining true to himself. Even his name is suggestive of princely or majestic behavior. Moreover, Castle "was a skinny little weak-looking guy" who stood up to the bullies.
Eventually, to get away from Stabile and the other boys, Castle jumped out the window and died. Salinger uses absurdity here. It is difficult to really imagine that Castle would jump out the window to evade the boys, and he does not give us reason to believe that the boys pushed Castle out the window and murdered him. The passage and use of absurdity contributes to the development of the themes in the novel by showing how much Holden dislikes people who are hypocrites and bullies.