Illustration of a man smoking a cigarette

The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger
Start Free Trial

What are some quotes that show Phoebe's effects on Holden's thoughts and actions in The Catcher in the Rye?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Phoebe is Holden's charismatic, sympathetic younger sister. She is one of the only people Holden can understand and trust. Holden admires his younger sister and appreciates her genuine personality and childlike innocence. Unlike Holden's peers, Phoebe does not put on airs or selfishly attempt to take advantage of him. During...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Phoebe is Holden's charismatic, sympathetic younger sister. She is one of the only people Holden can understand and trust. Holden admires his younger sister and appreciates her genuine personality and childlike innocence. Unlike Holden's peers, Phoebe does not put on airs or selfishly attempt to take advantage of him. During their interactions, it is evident that Holden listens to Phoebe and that she has the ability to influence his thoughts and feelings. In chapter 22, Holden laments his expulsion from Pencey Prep and all the phonies at school. When Phoebe challenges Holden to name one thing he truly likes, Holden responds by saying that he likes Allie. Phoebe replies by saying,

Allie's dead—You always say that! If somebody's dead and everything, and in Heaven, then it isn't really—

Phoebe's question and comment significantly influence Holden's mindset, as he begins to elaborate on how Allie was "a thousand times nicer" than anyone he's ever met. She understands that Holden refuses to let go of the past and exposes this serious issue. Holden scrambles to come up with an appropriate answer and struggles to maintain his composure. Later in the conversation, Holden mentions his desire to become a "catcher in the rye" and prevent kids from falling off steep cliffs. Holden's dream metaphorically represents his desire to prevent innocent children like Phoebe from growing up and falling prey to the dangers of the adult world. This remarkable insight into Holden's psychology was derived from Phoebe's probing questions.

Phoebe's influence over Holden is also depicted in chapter 25 when she attempts to run away with him. Initially, Holden yells at Phoebe and says that he will not allow her to go with him. Phoebe responds by bursting into tears, turning her back on Holden, and refusing to speak to him. Phoebe's reaction motivates Holden to change his mind about running away, and he tells her,

I'm not going away anywhere. I changed my mind. So stop crying, and shut up.

Holden then walks toward the zoo, and Phoebe follows him. As Phoebe is riding the carrousel, Holden sits by himself in the rain while she attempts to reach for the gold ring. Overall, Holden is very close with his younger sister, who has an enormous influence over him and eventually prevents him from running away.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team