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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 22: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In Chapter 22 of the J.D. Salinger novel, 'The Catcher in the Rye', Holden Caulfield returns home and has a difficult conversation with his little sister, Phoebe. Keep reading to learn more about what transpires between the two siblings.

Holden Returns Home

In Chapter 22 of The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger's popular novel, Holden Caulfield sneaks into his parent's apartment to visit his little sister, Phoebe, after being expelled from Pencey Prep for academic failure. Fortunately, his parents aren't at home. Will Phoebe understand why he flunked out? And what's Holden going to do now that he's no longer in school?

Phoebe Gives Him a Hard Time

When Phoebe first learns of Holden's expulsion, she covers her head with a pillow and refuses to look at him. As the main character tells us: 'She was ostracizing the hell out of me. Just like the fencing team at Pencey…' After Holden goes to the living room to nab some cigarettes, Phoebe takes her head out of the pillow but still refuses to look at him. Trying to change the subject, Holden asks Phoebe about the stories she writes, but she's not ready to drop his academic record. Anticipating how their parents will respond to her brother's expulsion, she says: 'Daddy'll kill you.'

Holden tries to reassure Phoebe that the worse that can happen is that he'll be sent to military school. But as he'll most likely end up going to work on a ranch in Colorado, there's nothing to worry about. Again, Holden tries to change the subject by asking about Phoebe's bad haircut, but she won't let it drop. Holden tells his sister that he passed English, just not the other subjects.

Holden Tries to Explain

Phoebe wants to understand why Holden keeps getting expelled from school, but he can't explain it. Holden doesn't even understand why it happens. He tries to tell his sister how phony, cliquish, and mean the guys at Pencey are. According to the former student, even the teachers are phony.

As Holden talks about the alumni that come and visit on Veteran's Day, he describes how depressing it is when they tell their stories of high school being the best time of their lives: 'God, Phoebe! I can't explain. I just didn't like anything that was happening at Pencey. I can't explain.'

Holden Defends Himself

Phoebe tells Holden that he just doesn't like anything and challenges him to name one thing that he really likes. Holden's mind goes blank. The only things he can think of are the nuns he met at breakfast that morning and a boy he used to go to school with named James Castle. James jumped out of a window to his death after some other classmates trapped him in his room and tried to make him take back a comment about Phil Stabile being conceited.

As Holden tells Phoebe: 'I won't even tell you what they did to him -- it's too repulsive -- but he still wouldn't take it back, old James Castle. And you should've seen him. He was a skinny little weak-looking guy, with wrists about as big as pencils.' When James died, he was wearing a turtleneck sweater he'd borrowed from Holden.

Holden also tells Phoebe that he likes their deceased brother, Allie, and he likes talking to her. Phoebe says that Allie doesn't count because he's dead. At this point, Holden shoots back: 'I know he's dead! Don't you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can't I? Just because somebody's dead, you don't just stop liking them, for God's sake -- especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that're alive and all.'

Phoebe also claims that there is nothing to just sitting and talking, but Holden disagrees because 'People never think anything is anything really.'

Holden Reflects on His Future

Phoebe pushes Holden to think about career goals, but nothing really appeals to him because most people are phony. Holden thinks about a Robert Burns poem, 'Comin' Thro' the Rye.'

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