Everybody has somebody in this world they can share their thoughts and emotions with. Whether it is a best friend, a co-worker, or even God…someone to talk to is sometimes the only cure to the things you are feeling inside. In the novel Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield’s person to talk to, or “confidante”, is his little sister Phoebe Caulfield. At the beginning of the novel Holden describes Phoebe as extremely smart and funny, but as the book progresses her significance in the work progresses too.
Much of Phoebe’s life is used symbolically and vicariously of Holden’s at her age. The most important part of the novel is the closing scene when Phoebe is on the merry-go-round. The three symbols used in this final scene (the rain, Holden’s hunting hat, and the merry-go-round itself) all directly correspond to the overall theme of the book. Phoebe’s character is brought up in many important scenes throughout the novel. Because she is Holden’s confidante, Phoebe is the one person Holden has left to trust with everything.
The symbolism used in the final passage of the novel is much deeper than the reader would think. Holden explains himself watching one of the most important people in his life simply go around and round on a merry-go-round in the pouring rain. The symbol of rain has appeared many times throughout the book. . One of the most ironic things about this scene with the rain is that it is almost identical to when Holden explained his experience when he visited Allie’s grave in Chapter 20.
When it started to rain at Allie’s grave, everybody ran away “into their cars to turn on the radio and go a nice place for dinner-except Allie” (156). In the scene with the merry-go-round, Holden feels like he needs to protect Phoebe because he doesn’t want to let her go and leave her there just as he had left Allie. Much like the symbol of rain in the book, Holden’s hunting red hat has acted as a protector for him. The hat has been something he can hide behind, and something he can feel like a kid in.
It also is an image of him, the hat being strange and unique. I believe that it is this hat that makes him the true “Catcher in the Rye”, especially when he gives it to Phoebe, the one person he loves and trusts more than anything in this world, and sees her wearing it. This is a significant moment in the novel mainly because it resembles Holden giving a little bit of himself away. Earlier on in the novel, we see Holden tell us what he thinks about when he heard “the Catcher in the Rye” is him standing on the edge of a cliff trying to prevent falling off of it.
The reason it makes him so happy watching Phoebe go around the merry-go-round is because he feels like he has finally become that “catcher”. There is nothing from the ugly, corrupt adulthood world that could ruin Phoebe’s childhood happiness and innocence. Holden’s hunting hat represents his individuality and need for security from the “phony’s”, but at the same time his innocence. The merry-go-round Phoebe is taking her second ride on also holds a great deal of symbolism.
The whole book, Holden has been constantly moving around and on a journey, but he can never seem to get to the place he wants to be. He strives to move forward, but he can’t help but resort to the struggles in his past. For instance, when calling Jane. His life is a cycle; repeating over and over and he can never seem to break out of it. I believe the author chose a merry-go-round because it both represents childhood and never changing or ending. The merry-go-round does move, but it repeats its same course. I was so nervous that she was going to fall but figured if she fell, she fell. It started to rain and I got pretty drenched. I just sat there on the bench watching all the other parents scramble to go and get there kids and all. All of a sudden I felt so god damn happy watching Phoebe go around in circles in her nice blue coat and all. ” It makes Holden happy to see that Phoebe is just staying in one place never changing, never ending. He wishes he that was still like Phoebe, but instead now he is in sort of his own merry-go-round of life.
In this last passage of the novel The Catcher in the Rye the main themes of the book are truly shown while Phoebe is on the carousel. The three symbols used, rain, Holden’s hunting hat, and the merry-go-round, all directly correspond to the major theme of the novel, which is youth vs. growing up. Holden Caulfield never wanted to let go of his childhood and therefore used Phoebe, his younger sister, as his confidante. Phoebe is the one true person that was always there for Holden and in the end was the one person that made him truly happy. He had finally become the “catcher in the rye” for his sister.