The Catcher in the Rye By J. D. Salinger Summary and Analysis Chapter 23

Summary

On the telephone, Mr. Antolini tells Holden to come right over if he wants. Holden returns to D.B.'s room, now inhabited by Phoebe. She has the radio on, and they dance. Holden lights a cigarette, and Phoebe explains how she can fake a fever.

Suddenly, they hear their parents entering the apartment. Holden turns out the lamp, jams out the cigarette, and hides in the closet. His mother checks on Phoebe and, smelling the cigarette, scolds her for smoking. After the mother leaves, Phoebe loans Holden her Christmas money, which makes Holden cry. He gives her his treasured red hunting cap and exits down the building's back stairs.

Analysis

This chapter is primarily a transitional one, serving to wrap up the visit and get Holden out of the apartment. Salinger offers a little insight into Mr. Antolini's character, detailing his compassionate response to the death of James Castle and his excellence as a teacher. In addition, we learn a little more about Phoebe and why Holden cherishes her.

Phoebe is delightfully serious at times. Holden has taught her the basics of dancing, and she is proud that she has been practicing and improving. She can even tango. She dances four numbers with Holden. In between songs, she stands perfectly still, not even speaking, waiting for the music to resume. She is also seriously proud of a new accomplishment, learning to fake a fever. Her friend Alice taught her the procedure: "cross your legs and hold your breath and think of something very, very hot." She assures Holden that when he tests her forehead, she won't burn his hand, she won't abuse her powers.

Because he is nearly broke, Holden asks if he might borrow some money from Phoebe. He is moved to tears when his sister gives him her Christmas stash, eight dollars and sixty-five cents. Holden's emotions frighten Phoebe, but they are not surprising. He is not nearly as independent as he pretends to be. In addition, physically and mentally, he is barely maintaining a delicate balance between function and collapse. Leaving the apartment, he is somewhat careless about making noise. He tells us that he almost wishes that his parents would catch him. Holden is 16 years old, confused, depressed, and lonely. It's almost Christmas. He needs a home.

Glossary

dough money.

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