What was Holden's Mom's reaction to Phoebe when Phoebe admitted to smoking?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Phoebe hadn't really been smoking. She just told her mother she had tried a puff on a cigarette to explain the smell of tobacco in her room and hide the fact that her big brother Holden has been there and has unwisely been smoking. In those days it would have been easy for Phoebe to find a cigarette in the big apartment. It was common to have fancy boxes of cigarettes and big lighters available for guests on coffee tables and elsewhere in living rooms. The conversation between mother and daughter does not show that either takes the little girl's experiment with tobacco seriously. If parents smoked, it should not surprise them that their children would imitate them.

"Phoebe, have you been smoking a cigarette in here? Tell me the truth, please, young lady."

"What?" old Phoebe said.

"You heard me."

"I just lit one for one second. I just took one puff. Then I threw it out the window."

"Why, may I ask""

"I couldn't sleep."

"I don't like that, Phoebe. I don't like that at all," my mother said. "Do you want another blanket?"

Phoebe is obviously as smart as Holden frequently says she is. She tells just the kind of story that will make her smoking seem harmless. Her mother believes her daughter's disingenuous story because it sounds true. A child as young as Phoebe might be curious, but she wouldn't smoke much of a cigarette because she wouldn't like the taste of tobacco. Her mother has already been through with raising three older children, D. B., Allie, and Holden, so she knows when to get concerned and when not to. She does not expect her little daughter to become a cigarette addict. Further, she does not seem to be the kind of woman who has strong control over her children. Her husband holds whatever parental power exists in the family. Both Phoebe and Holden are worried about how their father will react when he learns that Holden has been kicked out of another private school. They express no concern at all about their mother's reaction to his expulsion.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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