The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 21

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 21 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 21 | Summary



Holden tricks the elevator boy into letting him off on his family's floor. He enters the apartment quietly and goes to D.B.'s room, where Phoebe likes to sleep. He watches Phoebe sleep for a moment and then lights a cigarette and wakes Phoebe. She hugs him and tries to tell him all her news at once. Holden relaxes when Phoebe explains that their parents are at a party. He shows her the shattered record, which she treats as a gift, and she discusses her part in a Christmas play.

Phoebe's arm is bandaged; a boy has pushed her on the stairs, she explains, so she and a friend put ink on his jacket. Holden scolds her about the ink, but Phoebe won't buy his lie about getting out early and quickly figures out that he'd been expelled. Holden tells Phoebe that he plans to find a job on a ranch, where she can come visit him, but Phoebe, distressed, hides under her pillow and won't be comforted.


All four Caulfield children are, in some way, writers. Holden likes stories and writes well. Stradlater tells him to dumb his writing down so that the teacher won't guess that Holden wrote his roommate's composition. D.B. makes his living writing short stories and screenplays, while Allie wrote poetry all over his baseball glove. Phoebe fills notebooks with scribbles and the beginnings of stories.

Narrative matters deeply to these characters. Narrative and storytelling are a form of control Holden exerts over the events and emotions that threaten to overwhelm him. And as the final chapter shows, narrative is how Holden recovers from the "madman" days and connects to people who play parts in his story.

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