The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Chapter 16

With two hours to kill until his date with Sally, Holden takes off in search of a record he wants to buy for his little sister Phoebe. It’s not a great day for walking - it’s still pretty cold - though Holden sees one thing he thinks is worth relating. It’s a mother and father and a little kid, walking down the street. They look a little poor, though happy, and the boy is walking a little to the side of them, out on the edge of the street, and he’s singing. The song is simple, just the same phrase repeated: "’If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’" Chapter 16, pg. 115 This is the first direct mention of the catcher in the rye. Something about the scene and the song lift Holden’s spirits for a bit.

Holden gets tickets for a play, though he can’t resist a little rail on actors, who are among the biggest phonies around. He also finds a copy of the record he wants for Phoebe, called "Little Shirley Beans". With the record in hand, he heads to Central Park, hoping to find Phoebe roller skating so he can give her the present.

In the park, Phoebe’s nowhere to be found, although Holden does strike up a conversation with another little girl, who suggests he look at the museum with the Indians in it. Holden sets off in the direction of the Museum of Natural History, thinking the whole time about the field trips he took there as a kid, times when everything was sweet and innocent, and the museum never seemed to change. Holden is really moved thinking about all this, and says,

"Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway." Chapter 16, pg. 122

By the time he gets to the museum, he’s gone from fond nostalgia to despair over change that’s so strong he can’t even make himself go inside.

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