Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 21

By J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 21

  • Luckily for Holden, Pete the elevator boy isn't on duty when he gets to his actual apartment building. Instead, it's some new guy that won't recognize him.
  • He takes off his hunting hat before he goes in, so as "not to look suspicious."
  • Informing the elevator boy that he's the Dicksteins' nephew, he's taken up to one of the neighboring apartments. This somehow includes a made-up story that he's got an injured leg.
  • Holden sneaks into Phoebe's room, but she's not there. He remembers she likes to sleep in D.B.'s room, as it's the biggest and she can "spread out," which is funny for a little kid who has nothing to spread out.
  • Before he wakes her up, he looks at her for a minute. Kids, he thinks, are cute when they sleep, even if they drool all over the pillow. Adults, on the other hand, always look "lousy."
  • For once, we have to agree with Holden.
  • Holden looks around at her neatly arranged clothes. His mother, he knows, has great taste in clothes—Phoebe always looks great.
  • He checks out the stuff she's got lying on her desk. In one of her math books, she wrote "Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield," even though her middle name is "Josephine." She's just always trying to change it, he says.
  • Among several workbooks is Phoebe's own notebook, with little scribbles of her own and notes to/from her friends. Holden reads the whole thing. It's really quite adorable. You should check it out.
  • Finally, he lights a cigarette and wakes Phoebe up.
  • She's all excited to see him and throws her arms around his neck. He tries to get her to keep her voice down, but their parents are out anyway at a party. She tells him all about a Christmas Pageant in which she's Benedict Arnold.
  • Um, weird pageant.
  • Phoebe rattles on about The Doctor, a movie about a man who suffocates a crippled child.
  • The question is whether mercy killing is wrong or not, which—and stop us if we're reading into things—seems like a very apropos question.
  • Hearing that his parents aren't going to be home any time soon, he stops to smell the roses, and by "smell the roses," we mean "look at the red elephants on the collar of Phoebe's pajamas."
  • He tells her about the broken record, and her response is: "Gimme the pieces. I'm saving them."
  • Holden asks whether D.B. is coming home for Christmas, but Phoebe says he might need to stay in Hollywood to write a movie about Annapolis, which of course some very famous actor is going to be in.
  • After asking about a bandage on her arm, Holden finds out she got pushed down the stairs by a boy. She thinks he hates her. Holden says he's probably got a crush on her.
  • Finally, Phoebe figures out that Holden kicked out of school again. "Daddy'll kill you!" she says.
  • Nah, it'll be fine. He'll just run away to a ranch on Colorado. Or something. Whatevs.
  • Phoebe pulls a pillow over her head, and Holden leaves for the living room to get some cigarettes; he's all out.

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 21 Study Group

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