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Chapter 25

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 25 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 25 | Summary

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Summary

It is now nearly dawn on Monday. Holden slept on a bench at Grand Central and awakens depressed and sick.

Holden crosses Fifth Avenue, sleep-deprived, sick, and lonely. He finally collapses on a bench, unable to catch his breath. Holden fantasizes to gain control of the moment: He'll hitchhike west, that day, and pretend to be a deaf-mute so he can avoid conversations. He'll pump gas, live in a cabin, and marry a beautiful girl who is also deaf and mute. They'll hide their kids from the world.

Holden can't leave without telling Phoebe good-bye. He goes to her school to write a note telling her to meet him at lunch at the Museum of Natural History to say good-bye. On his way upstairs, Holden becomes faint and has to sit down. He sees obscene words written on the wall where little kids can see and becomes enraged because "they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and finally some dirty kid would tell them," and their innocence would be destroyed.

In the school office Holden talks with an amiable elderly woman and arranges for the note to be delivered; then he leaves by a different staircase, where he sees obscene words scratched into the paint. The situation is hopeless. He could never get rid of the words.

Holden finally spots Phoebe, wearing his bright red hunting hat and lugging a suitcase. She states that she is going with him. Her stubbornness angers Holden. She cries and takes off the hat and throws it at him. Holden puts the hat in his pocket.

Holden walks toward the zoo with Phoebe shadowing him on the other side of the street. Holden leads the way to the carousel, and Phoebe finally breaks the silence, surprised that the ride is operating in winter. He buys her a ticket, and she chooses a horse to ride. Holden, still faint and sick, watches the kids ride and try to grab the gold ring. It's scary to watch, Holden remarks, because the kids want the ring but might fall trying to get it, yet he has to watch them try.

After the ride Phoebe kisses Holden and retrieves the hat from his pocket to put on his head. Rain starts to fall as Phoebe asks whether Holden meant it when he said he wasn't going anywhere. Holden assures her that he meant it; this time, he tells the reader, he wasn't lying. She rides again as the rain falls harder. Holden is soaked but happy watching her ride the brown horse, seeing her blue coat through the rain.

Analysis

This chapter, many readers think, contains the climax of the novel: the moment when Holden decides to reject the fantasy of the cabin in the West and reconnect with his home. Some readers interpret his decision as a sort of failure or at least an admission of hopelessness because of Holden's reaction to the obscene graffiti he encounters where children will see it. Readers are right that Holden decides he cannot clean up the world to make it safe for innocent children.

However, it may be that Holden has grasped that the cause he'd taken up, to be the "catcher" of the children near the cliff, is unrealistic, or at least that he's going about the job wrong. Whatever Holden's adult life entails, it won't involve pretending to be a deaf-mute, avoiding conversation, and trying to rub out offending words. He turns his back on that hopeless quest and focuses instead on the children's willingness to reach out for the gold ring, despite the risks. He is so overwhelmed by the thought of Phoebe reaching for the ring that he nearly weeps for joy.

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