The Catcher in the Rye Questions and Answers
by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
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Does Holden mainly love Phoebe since she tries to help him?

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In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is deeply attached to his siblings but distant from his parents. Phoebe is his only sister. Their older brother, D. B., whom Holden had idolized, moved to California to work in the film industry. Holden worries that he has become one of the “phonies” and sold his soul to Hollywood. Their younger brother, Allie, died, and his death has almost totally destroyed the family. The parents’ inability to cope has furthered their emotional distance from their children. Holden loves Phoebe with all his heart, and he agonizes because he cannot help her.

On some level, Holden understands that his fantasy about helping children by catching them before they fall off a cliff is actually about helping himself. He is emotionally unequipped to take the positive steps he needs to restore his mental health. In the depths of his crisis, he turns to his sister. It is the purity of her devotion that Holden really needs, not her money. When she pleads with him to run away with him, he knows that would be the wrong decision. As the novel ends, through the scene at the carousel, the reader sees clearly how important his little sister is to him: “I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around.”

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