Roll with us: we think the real ending of Catcher comes not at the actual end of the book, when Holden brings us back to wherever he is in his present, but at the end of the second to last chapter, when Holden watches Phoebe go around on the carousel:
I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could've been there. (25)
This is actually the single only time that Holden actually says he’s happy—in the entire novel. Watching Phoebe reach out of the ring, he seems to realize that life is about—what? Trying? maintaining some sort of innocence, even when everything seems really bad? Finding little moments of connection with people?
Whatever moral you take away from Holden’s teeny little character arc, this is the moment when it finally comes to some sort of resolution. And you know what? We’re happy for the guy.