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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Which scene from The Catcher in the Rye would you rewrite from Phoebe's perspective?

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Phoebe Caulfield , Holden’s younger sister, is the person he cares most about. Since their brother’s death, the two have developed a deeper emotional bond but they rarely see each other because Holden is away at boarding school. Furthermore, she is several years younger and her feelings are mixed because...

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she knows that Holden is always in trouble. Phoebe and Holden have two powerful, long vignettes together. Either could be effectively expressed from Phoebe’s point of view.

The first of these occurs when Holden visits her in their home while their parents are away. After he wakes her up, for a while they are having a normal conversation about what she’s been up to, until she realizes that he is several days early: ”How come you’re not home Wednesday? . . . You didn’t get kicked out or anything, did you?” At this point, Phoebe begins to seem like the older of the two siblings, and she is clearly upset with her brother. This could be a good scene to tell from her perspective.

Their final scene together outside the museum and in Central Park might also be told from the younger sister’s point of view. Phoebe has lent Holden money so he can run away, but he wants to see her one last time and plans to return the money. But after he sends her a message to meet him, she shows up with a packed suitcase and says she’s going with him. “Can’t I go with you? Holden? Can’t I? Please.” Although he refuses, he agrees she can skip school and they end up at the carousel. Figuring out Phoebe’s thought processes in deciding to go with her brother, and how she might feel about their afternoon together, would offer some insights into the siblings’ relationship.

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The scene where Holden sneaks into his family's apartment and speaks quietly with Phoebe at night would be interesting to read from Phoebe's perspective. She spends a fair amount of the time refusing to speak with Holden; presumably, this is because she is worried about him. She tells him that their father will be very angry to hear that Holden has left Pencey Prep, but readers are not able to access all that she is feeling. A scene from her perspective could give readers insight into how Holden appears to others and the extent to which Phoebe understands his psychological and emotional struggles. She would be able to describe his physical look, his demeanor, and how he responds to her negative reaction to what he is telling her about his plans for his future. Though she is a child, she is intelligent and caring, and readers could gain more understanding of the family's dynamics if she were to describe what it is like to have Holden suddenly and secretly appear in her room.

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Phoebe is the force of redemption in the story.  She represents the quality of Eros, or the life affirming force.  This is importance because there are not many other examples of a Eros in Holden's narrative.  If I were to add an element to the narrative, I think that I would be interested in seeing an ending scene where Phoebe visits Holden in the psychiatric hospital.  Phoebe seems to be the one person where Holden can actually communicate and feel emotions that are divorced from his venomous approach to the outside world.  I think that it might work to have Phoebe actually talk to Holden in the hospital about how he feels and, specifically, their own relationship.  If Holden is going to get help and actually mature into his own person, it will have to start with his love for Phoebe.  In this light, integrating her into the ending would be something that I could consider seeing.  Yet, in the end, this novel is so perfect in how it was constructed that there mere idea of wanting to add something is far beyond anything I could ever derive.

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