In The Catcher in the Rye, why does Holden decide not to call Phoebe?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main character and narrator of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, narrates his experiences in retrospect as he has been committed to a mental hospital. After having attended three prep schools, Holden has been expelled from Pencey, where he has failed four out of five of his courses. After his roommate Stradlater has gone out with a girl that Holden has held in high regard, Holden insults him when he returns and Stradlater bloodies Holden's nose. Disgusted thoroughly with his environment, Holden decides to leave. But in the taxi he realizes he will be three days early and his parents will realize that he has failed; so, he asks the cab driver to drop him off at a hotel in Manhattan where he will stay until he can return home at the proper time.

Because he finds the adult world counterfeit--once in his room in Chapter 10, he looks across and sees a man and woman spitting water at each other as well as other couples engaged in antics--in his longing to communicate with someone genuine, Holden considers phoning his precocious little sister, Phoebe, whom he loves for her intelligence and candor.

She was smart even when she was a tiny little kid....she was somebody you always felt like talking to on the phone. But I was too afraid my parents would answer and then they'd find out I was in New York and kicked out of Pencey and all. [Ch. 10]

Instead he showers and puts on a clean shirt and goes down to the hotel's lounge, hoping to be able to get a drink, but the waiter asks for verification of his age. Then Holden sees three single girls and dances with one. After they leave because they want to rise early and travel to Radio City, he sits in the lounge, feeling his alienation all the more.

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