Holden's And Phoebe Relationship Essay (The Catcher in the Rye)


In the novel The Catcher in the Rye written by J.D. Salinger, Holden talks about and meets up with many different characters throughout the story and talks about his opinions on these people. It is through the conversations, the meetings, and Holden’s opinions where one can learn a lot about who Holden is. First, there is Phoebe, who represents innocence turning into maturity. Then Allie, who explains Holden’s view on permanence and love. Finally, there is Sally, who represents Holden’s contradictory nature. J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, reveals much about Holden through Phoebe’s dissolving innocence, Allie’s impact on Holden, and his meeting with Sally. 

To begin with, Phoebe represents the innocence of a child, who is growing up and learning about the adult world. Phoebe is Holden’s 10-year-old sister who is very smart and loves to dance. She has red hair, just like their brother Allie; Holden thinks of the color red as a color that represents innocence. As Phoebe is rapidly growing up, she is learning that adulthood is different and may be difficult, but it is apart of life and you have to accept instead of run away from it. She explains this to Holden when he talks about running away. “You don’t like anything that’s happening” (Salinger 169). Phoebe addresses this issue of how Holden looks at the world in an unpromising and gloomy way. At first, Holden struggles with what she says, but after thinking about it, he realizes she is right. He does not like being faced with adulthood, so, therefore, he has a negative outlook on the world. Phoebe then asks him what he wants to be and he replies by saying he wants to be the catcher in the rye. What he means is he wants to catch kids before they fall off the cliff and into adulthood; he wants to protect every child’s innocence. When he watches Phoebe on the carousel, trying to reach the golden ring, he thinks of how that ring is a symbol of maturity and adulthood. Since Phoebe is still just a kid, she cannot reach the ring, but soon she will grow up and she will be able to reach the ring. “All the kids kept trying to grab for the gold ring, and so was old Phoebe, and I was sort of afraid she’d fall off the goddam horse, but I didn’t say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them” (Salinger 211). It is here when he realizes that everyone grows up and everyone is faced with adulthood. He realizes that he cannot be the catcher in the rye, because he cannot keep kids from growing up. Through Phoebe, it can be seen how Holden still wants to be innocent himself but begins to accept the fact that he is going to be an adult soon. Phoebe represents children going from pure innocence to the maturity and understanding of the adult world.

Next is Allie, who represents love and shows why Holden is unable to find permanence. Allie is Holden’s redhead younger brother who died from leukemia at a young age. Holden thinks of him as the perfect picture of innocence, and which is why he connects the color red with innocence. Whenever Holden is faced with adulthood, he puts on his red hunting cap and runs away from it, towards innocence. When he runs, he is unable to find the permanence he has been seeking for. “What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed” (Salinger 98). Holden had a very strong connection with Allie, and he still likes to talk to him as if he were still alive. He and Allie had a very close relationship, and so ever since Holden lost his brother, it has been hard for him to form new close relationships with others, because he is worried that they are going to leave him the same way Allie did. “Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him” (Salinger 198). At this point in the story, Holden is at rock bottom, and he is talking to Allie again. Holden keeps talking to Allie as a way to escape the real world. It can be seen that because of Holden’s close relationship with his brother, Allie is the one thing that keeps him grounded. Through the stories that Holden shares about Allie, it can be seen that his relationship with Allie keeps him from forming new and strong relationships, resulting in Holden unable to find permanence. 

Finally, there is Sally, who resembles Holden’s contradictory nature and his fear of the adult world. Sally is one of Holden’s friends whom he meets up with when he is in New York City. Holden really contradicts himself when he talks about and to Sally. The first thing he does is ask her on a date. He repeatedly says how loud Sally is and how he does not care for her all that much, yet he asked her out. “Then, just to show you how crazy I am, when we were coming out of this big clinch, I told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it. I’m crazy. I swear to God I am” (Salinger 125). Next, he says that he loves her, and he means it, yet he says it’s a lie. It can be hard to tell what he means because he goes against what he says quite often. Another way Holden contradicts himself when talking to Sally is when he asks her to run away with him. “I have about a hundred and eighty bucks in the bank. I can take it out when it opens in the morning, and then I would go down and get this guy’s car. No kidding. We’ll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like that till the dough runs out. Then, when the dough runs out, I could get a job somewhere and we could live somewhere with a brook and all and, later on, we could get married or something” (Salinger 132). Here, Sally tries to talk sense into him be saying he cannot just run away from his fears, and he has to embrace adulthood. As always, as soon as Holden hears this, he puts on his red hunting cap, overreacts, and leaves. His contradictory nature is also shown here because although he has expressed that he does not like Sally, he still asks her to run away with him. Throughout Holden’s time with Sally, there are many times where his contradictory nature and his innocence is clearly shown through Sally. 

In conclusion, Holden reveals much of who he is when he talks about and with Phoebe and the fact that she’s losing her innocence, through Allie, who left Holden to struggle to find permanence, and during his meet up with Sally. First, Phoebe is growing up and understanding the reality of the adult world, while Holden wants to protect that. Next, Allie and Holden’s very close relationship leaves Holden to battle to make friends, in the worry that they will leave him. Lastly, through Sally, Holden’s contradiction is shown in many ways, as he says he loves her and wants to marry her, yet he cannot stand her. Holden has a hard time opening up about himself straightforward, but Holden actually reveals much about himself through the interactions he has had with family and friends. 

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