In J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, who is Phoebe, and what is Holden's opinion of her?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In J.D. Salenger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye, Phoebe is Holden Caulfield’s ten-year-old sister and quite possibly the individual for whom this personification of alienation feels the greatest level of respect.  Throughout Salenger’s novel, it is Phoebe who Holden most wants to call on the telephone on the spur of the moment or when he’s simply feeling like having an intelligent conversation with someone to whom he can relate and who, in today’s vernacular, "gets it."  Despite the fact that he is seven years older than Phoebe, Holden is intellectually and temperamentally closer to his little sister than to anyone else in his little universe.  Early in The Catcher in the Rye, Holden, the story’s narrator, mentions his desire to call Phoebe but holds off on so doing out of concern that it will be his parents who answer the phone.  That Holden will resist the urge to call Phoebe because he is so determined not to talk to his parents illuminates the depth of his despair at the life fate has handed him.  In Chapter 10, Holden again emphasizes the high regard he holds for his younger sibling, suggesting:

“You'd like her. 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. If you take her to a lousy movie, for instance, she knows it's a lousy movie. If you take her to a pretty good movie, she knows it's a pretty good movie.”

In conclusion, then, Phoebe is Holden Caulfield’s ten-year-old sister and possibly the most important person in his life.  Holden respects her keen intellect and appreciates that, unlike most of mankind, his little sister is an astute personality of considerable gravitas.

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