What does Holden like about his sister Phoebe in The Catcher in the Rye?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden enjoys spending time with his younger sister Phoebe throughout the novel and goes out of his way to talk to her after flunking out of Pencey Prep. In chapter 10, Holden elaborates on the positive personality traits of his younger sister by mentioning that she is extremely intelligent and funny. Interestingly, Holden says,

I mean if you tell old Phoebe something, she knows exactly what the hell you're talking about (Salinger, 37).

Phoebe's ability to understand and connect with Holden is what he cherishes the most. Throughout the novel, Holden's immaturity and cynicism prevent him from developing authentic relationships with people his own age. Unlike the "phony" adults, Phoebe is genuine and innocent. 

If there is one fear that Holden has throughout the novel, it is entering the world of adulthood. Fortunately, Phoebe embodies everything that Holden values about childhood, and she is one of the few characters who truly understands him. Unlike Holden's sagacious professors, selfish peers, and superficial associates, Phoebe is a sensible, naive child who cares about her older brother's well-being.

Holden not only appreciates the fact that they share similar tastes in entertainment but also values her listening skills. She is not overly judgmental, and she even looks up to him. Holden also enjoys her red hair, which reminds him of Allie. Overall, Phoebe is an intelligent, sympathetic younger sister who truly cares about Holden. Holden values his younger sister because she is one of the few people he can have a genuine conversation with and not feel like he is being judged.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden likes to think about his sister Phoebe, and thinks about calling her often.

Phoebe is “only a little kid” and Holden feels like she has a good head, but he can’t really communicate with her because he can never call her.

I damn near gave my kid sister Phoebe a buzz, though. I certainly felt like talking to her on the phone. Somebody with sense and all. (ch 10)

Holden considers his little sister smart, even though she is so young.  At ten years old, skinny Phoebe is one of the few people Holden feels a connection with.

I mean if you tell old Phoebe something, she knows exactly what the hell you're talking about. I mean you can even take her anywhere with you. (ch 10)

He enjoys taking Phoebe to the movies, and she is “all right,” although she can be emotional at times.  Phoebe has always been smart though, and she seems to crack Holden up.  It’s clear that he misses her.

Holden can never call his sister because he usually thinks to do so at night, and he does not think she will be up.  He knows she would talk to him if she answered the phone, but his parents wouldn’t bring her the phone if they were the ones that answered and he doesn’t want them to know he’s in New York.

Holden’s obsession with Phoebe is an example of his isolation and extreme loneliness.  The one person he wants to connect with on several occasions is much younger, and is out of reach.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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