The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Chapter 22

Holden returns from a quick trip to the living room, to steal some cigarettes, and finds that Phoebe still won’t look at him. When Phoebe finally asks him why he got kicked out of Pencey, or more clearly, why he "did it," Holden spits out his problem with Pencey: that almost without exception, it’s full of phonies and mean guys. Phoebe is not particularly sympathetic, and seems to think that Holden’s problem is bigger than one of adjustment at Pencey Prep. She demands that he name one thing he likes, just one thing, then stares at him, waiting for an answer.

While she waits, Holden can’t keep his mind on the question at hand, and he starts thinking about James Castle, a boy who got bullied around at one of Holden’s old schools and ultimately jumped out of a window to his death. Phoebe interrupts his thoughts, now telling Holden, "’You can’t even think of one thing.’" (pg. 171) Holden finally answers that he likes Allie and that he likes what he’s doing at the moment, sitting and chatting with Phoebe. Neither answer satisfies Holden’s sister, and she demands next to know what Holden’s going to do with his life. This question only leads Holden to another depressing rant about how most anything you do in the adult world ends up making a phony out of you.

Finally, sitting on the bed, Holden comes up with one job he’d like to have. He tells Phoebe of a vision he’s had.

"’Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.’" Chapter 22, pg. 173

Phoebe can only sit silent after this, until she finally asserts one last time, "’Daddy’s going to kill you.’" (pg. 173)

Have study documents to share about The Catcher in the Rye? Upload them to earn free Studypool credits!