The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 22

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 22 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

Holden tries to explain why he flunked out: the students are "phonies" and "mean guys"; even the nice teachers were also "phonies." He says he didn't like anything at Pencey. Phoebe responds that Holden didn't ever like anything and demands that he tell her what he liked. But Holden can't focus. He thinks about the nuns and about an Elkton Hills student who jumped to his death after being bullied and how the students who beat him up didn't go to jail.

Finally, Holden says he has liked some things, especially Allie, talking with Phoebe, and "thinking about stuff." Dissatisfied, Phoebe asks what Holden wants to be someday. Holden rambles a bit before quoting the song: "If a body catch a body coming through the rye." Phoebe corrects him: "It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!" But Holden explains what he calls a crazy idea. He says that the line made him think of a rye field where many little kids play. Holden is the only adult person there who stands near the edge of a cliff to catch the kids when "they're running and they don't look where they're going. ... That's all I'd do all day." That's his crazy idea—to be the catcher in the rye. Then Holden decides suddenly to call a former teacher, Mr. Antolini. Before he leaves the room, Phoebe shows off how she was learning to belch.

Analysis

This chapter reveals another trauma in Holden's life. Holden recalls James Castle, a student who was beaten up before he jumped out of a dorm window and died. Holden remembers vividly hearing the boy land and seeing the boy's spattered blood. The boy was wearing a sweater Holden had loaned him, a detail he can't make sense of at first. He can still hear the class roll call, where Castle's name came just before his. Holden seems to relate to James Castle for several reasons. Castle was quiet, then, and small; Holden has said the same of himself, in comparison to athletes like Stradlater. Also, Castle died rather than give in to the bullies' demand that he conform to their definition of him; he died to keep from being phony.

Phoebe asks Holden to name something he likes. The people who come to his mind—the nuns, James Castle, and Allie—are all models of human courage and compassion. Holden is floundering, trying to find adult models to follow, but he has some ideas about the kind of adult he would want to be.

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