The Catcher in the Rye Phoebe Caulfield
by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
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Phoebe Caulfield

Extended Character Analysis

Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s younger sister. Phoebe is Holden's favorite person and the only one he can truly communicate with. In contrast to his jaded outlook, Phoebe's perspective is amusing and refreshing, and she is also emotional and affectionate.

Phoebe is ten years old, skinny, and has reddish hair similar to her deceased brother, Allie. Holden describes her as an ideal kid. Bright, creative, and well-organized, she is intelligent and understands things around her as they are. She keeps all her school work in labelled notebooks and loves to write fictional stories. Holden describes a story that she has written about a strong girl detective named “Hazle Weatherfield.”

Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden often wants to call her, because he views her as someone who has “sense.” It's likely J.D. Salinger includes Phoebe is a counterexample to Jane Gallagher, Sally Hayes, and the adult characters in The Catcher in the Rye. Although he is her older brother, Holden idealizes Phoebe and sees her as mature and incredibly intelligent. The adult characters, in comparison to Phoebe, lack intelligence and common sense. They are “phony” and affected. Phoebe represents to Holden the pure and ideal. However, Phoebe’s character is described from the standpoint of Holden, who is a biased, unreliable narrator. He chooses to view her in this way.

However, Phoebe plays a larger role than just this. Phoebe is independent, straightforward, and a catalyst for Holden. She does not share his disenchantment with the world and scolds him for not liking anything. For example, when she asks him if there is anything that he likes a lot, Holden struggles to answer. She calls her brother out on his depressive tendencies and glum outlook, and she pushes him to recognize his inability to answer her clearly. Although Holden cannot come up with a positive idea right away, he does eventually say he likes his younger brother, Allie. Phoebe angrily reminds him that their brother is dead.

Phoebe also exhibits more kindness than any other characters in The Catcher in the Rye . For example, she gives Holden all of her savings for Christmas to make sure he can afford to get around New York City. Her kindness causes Holden to cry, which shows how Phoebe provides Holden...

(The entire section is 591 words.)