Chapter 21 and 22
Holden quietly sneaks into his family's apartment, going back to Phoebe's room. When he finds it empty he remembers that she always sleeps in D.B.'s room when he's away in Hollywood. She likes to spread out her homework on D.B.'s huge desk. Once he gets to D.B.'s room he turns on the desk lamp and watches Phoebe sleeping. He notes that Phoebe's stuff is set neatly on a chair by the bed, then looks at her books on D.B.'s desk and reads through a school notebook. In it she's signed her name as "Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield" (Weatherfield is the name of the girl detective in the stories she writes). He finally wakes her up. She tells him about a school Christmas play she's in and a movie she saw, and that their parents won't be in until late. She also says that D.B. is working on a movie, and may not be home for Christmas.
Eventually, it occurs to Phoebe that it is Sunday night and that Holden was not supposed to get out of school until Wednesday. She realizes that he's been kicked out of school again, and she is so angry that she puts a pillow over her head and refuses to talk to him further. Holden goes out to the living room to get some cigarettes.
When he comes back in, Phoebe has taken the pillow off her head, but still won't look at him. She tells him their father will kill him, and Holden says that he'll just send him off to military school. Holden says he'll probably run away to Colorado to work on a ranch, but Phoebe points out he doesn't even know how to ride a horse. She asks him why he failed out again. Holden explains that the school was full of phonies and that everyone would ignore guys like Robert Ackley simply because they were pimply or boring: "I just didn't like anything that was happening at Pencey." Phoebe responds "You don't like anything that's happening," and challenges him to name one thing he likes.
Holden tells us he thinks about the question, but can't concentrate. He thinks about the nuns he saw at Grand Central Station, and about a scrawny boy he knew at Elkton Hills prep named James Castle. Castle had called a classmate of theirs conceited (Holden assures us that he was), and refused to take it back when the classmate and a group of his friends tried to force him to recant. Finally, when they kept abusing him, he threw himself out the window. Holden remembers seeing him dead in a puddle of blood on the steps outside, and that Castle was wearing a sweater Holden had lent him. He notes that he didn't know Castle well, but remembers that his name always came directly before his own in the alphabetical roll call. (The suggestion of the inevitability of Holden's own aging and death is raised here - that he was wearing Holden's sweater reinforces this, but Holden does not engage these issues directly).
Finally, Holden responds that he likes Allie, and he likes the conversation he's having with her right now, but Phoebe cuts him off to say that Allie is dead and thus doesn't count. Holden responds that he certainly does count, especially since Allie was "about a thousand times nicer" than anyone else.
Phoebe then challenges him to name something he'd like to be, like a scientist, or a lawyer like their father. Holden says being a lawyer is fine if you save people's lives, but that generally "All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink martinis and look like a hot-shot." (We are left to guess if he is describing his own father). Holden asks Phoebe if she remembers the song "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye." She corrects him, noting that it's from a poem by Robert Burns, and that it's "If a body meet a body...." Holden says that he had pictured thousands of little kids playing in a field, without anybody older around except for him. He has to catch them from going off a cliff at the end of the field - he would be "the catcher in the rye." Phoebe doesn't know what to say to this, except that their father is going to kill Holden for getting kicked out of another school. Holden leaves the room to call a former teacher of his from Elkton Hills, Mr. Antolini, apparently one of the few adults he trusts.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24