Here’s a detailed summary of Chapter 17 of “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger:
Catcher in the Rye Chapter 17 Summary: Holden’s Encounter with His Little Sister
In Chapter 17, Holden Caulfield continues his narrative in New York City, where he has been wandering the streets after his late-night walk and spiritual crisis. The chapter picks up the morning after his decision to run away from home and start a new life out west.
Holden reflects on his desire to protect innocence and vulnerability, which is symbolized by his fantasy of becoming the “catcher in the rye.” He envisions himself standing in a field of rye, catching children who are about to fall off a cliff into the complexities and phoniness of adulthood.
As he walks through the city, Holden becomes increasingly tired and hungry. He mentions that he has only a few dollars left, which he plans to use for his journey out west.
Holden’s thoughts then turn to his younger sister, Phoebe, whom he deeply cares for. He contemplates the impact his decision to run away will have on her and the rest of his family. He acknowledges that he can’t just leave without saying goodbye to Phoebe.
Holden decides to visit Phoebe at her school, the Whooton School. When he arrives, he finds Phoebe in a school play rehearsal. He watches her perform and is filled with a sense of love and admiration for her talent and innocence.
After the rehearsal, Holden approaches Phoebe, and their reunion is emotional. Phoebe is happy to see him but also worried about his well-being. She expresses her concern and tells him that their parents will be furious when they find out he’s left Pencey Prep and run away from home.
Holden acknowledges that he doesn’t have a concrete plan for his future and is uncertain about what he wants to do. He shares his desire to protect Phoebe’s innocence and expresses his love for her. Phoebe responds by giving him her Christmas money, which she has saved, to help him on his journey.
The chapter ends with Holden’s decision to leave the school before his parents find out about his visit. He is deeply moved by Phoebe’s support and love, and he watches her from a distance as she goes back to her rehearsal.
Chapter 17 is a poignant chapter that highlights the strong bond between Holden and Phoebe. It also explores Holden’s internal conflict between the desire to protect innocence and the challenges of growing up in a world he perceives as phony and complex. Phoebe’s concern and support provide a source of emotional comfort as he grapples with his own uncertainties and decisions.