The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis

J. D. Salinger

Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis

Summary
Holden enters the family apartment, unrecognized, because there is a substitute elevator boy, whom he deceives. He sneaks into the apartment and finds Phoebe, not in her own room, but asleep in D.B.’s room. Holden says he feels good being home. He wakes up Phoebe, and both are obviously happy to see each other. Phoebe immediately asks him if he received her letter, in which she invited him to attend her play. He assures her that he is, indeed, coming to her play. They talk about where their parents have gone for the evening, the movie Phoebe saw that afternoon, the broken record, whether D.B. is coming home for Christmas, and that she had hurt her arm. But when Phoebe gets Holden to admit that he has been kicked out of school again, she explodes with anger and rejects him. Completely exasperated, she puts her head under a pillow and refuses to talk to him.

Discussion and Analysis
Phoebe clearly brings out the best in Holden. He says that he actually feels good for a change. He is glad to be home and is resigned to the fact that if his parents find him, he will just have to accept it. In fact, it almost appears that he wants to be caught, given the fact that he is smoking and willing to take a chance on waking up his mother who is a light sleeper. Before Holden wakes Phoebe, he goes about the room looking at her clothes and things with affection and pride. As he reflects on these accouterments of childhood, he seems to be preparing himself for the ordeal of putting his youth behind him, and foreshadowing the quasi-religious calling he sees for himself in the next chapter.