Summary and Analysis
The touching final scene of Holden's long flashback, his story, takes place at the carrousel in the park outside of the zoo. The great thing about a carrousel, for Holden, is that it has beauty and music and even motion, but it doesn't go anywhere. Nothing really changes. However, not everyone wants things to stay the way they are. Symbolically, Phoebe and the other kids want to grab the gold ring hanging just beyond reach on each rotation. If they can grab the gold ring, they can win the prize, whatever that might be. In life, too, it is natural for young people to want to take a risk and try for something beyond what they have. Even Holden, taking an initial step toward maturity or change, concedes that, when kids long to "grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it. . . . If they fall off, they fall off. . . ."
We get the feeling that Holden could stand there and watch Phoebe ride her "big, brown, beat-up-looking old horse" forever, even in the rain. The song the carrousel plays is "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," recalling the natural reaction of tears when smoke gets in people's eyes. Holden is so happy that he is "damned near bawling." Phoebe goes round and round, the music plays, and she looks "so damn nice" in her blue coat on that old wooden horse; for a moment, Holden's world is perfect.
That's all that Holden wants to tell us. He says that he did go home after being at the zoo with Phoebe. He got sick and ended up in California, but, for once, he doesn't want to go into the details. He doesn't know what the future holds, but he misses all the people in his past, even the jerks and bullies. "Don't ever tell anybody anything," he concludes. "If you do, you start missing everybody." Holden wishes that the story would never end. It would be perfect if it just kept going round and round, like that old carrousel.
strong box a heavily made box or safe for storing valuables.
scraggy-looking lean; bony; skinny.
Salvation Army an international organization on semi-military lines, founded in England by William Booth in 1865 for religious and philanthropic purposes among the very poor.
Bloomingdale's a popular, Manhattan-based department store.
storm shoes all-weather boots.
Holland Tunnel a passageway connecting lower Manhattan with Jersey City, New Jersey, beneath the Hudson River.
double-decker bus a bus with an upper deck or floor.
carrousel a merry-go-round with various wooden or metal animals, especially ponies, serving as seats that go up and down.
affected behaving in an artificial way to impress people.