Catcher in the Rye Chapters 20 - 22 Summary

Holden is still in the bar where he met Carl Luce, his old academic advisor, as Chapter twenty begins. Carl was very critical of Holden and he acted very superior. Carl left after two martinis and Holden stayed on at the bar. He proceeds to get drunk and calls Sally at about 1:00 in the morning. Prior to calling Sally, Holden starts to pretend he has been shot in the stomach like he did after Maurice punched him in the stomach in an earlier chapter. He likes to play act. He puts his hand under his coat and holds his stomach, and he staggers to the phone booth as if he is dying. When he gets inside the phone booth, he thinks of calling Jane Gallagher first, but then "loses the mood" and calls "Old Sally." He tells her he would like to come over and help her decorate her Christmas tree sometime as she asked him. Sally can tell that Holden is very drunk and keeps telling him to go home and go to bed. She finally does agree that he can come over some time and help decorate the Christmas tree. Holden regrets calling her and making a fool of himself. He tells us he always acts like an idiot when he gets drunk.

Holden is seeing double and is feeling very sick from drinking too much. He goes to the men's room and fills the sink with cold water. He submerges his head in the sink, to sober himself up, but he does not attempt to dry himself off and lets the water just drip down the back of his shirt. Holden sits on the radiator for a while and tries to warm himself. When the handsome piano player comes into the Men's room to comb his hair, Holden asks him a question. He asks him if he can ask Valencia if the waiter ever gave her his message. The piano player just tells him to go home and go to bed. Holden compares him to his roommate, Stradlater. He says handsome guys just talk to you while they are combing their hair, and when they are done, they just abandon you.

Holden gets on a crying jag suddenly. He finds sympathy with the hat-check girl. She gives him his coat and the record he bought for Phoebe, despite the fact that he lost his ticket. Holden tries to get her to go out with him, but she just tells him to go home and go to bed.

So far, three people have told Holden to go home and go to bed, but he chooses to walk to Central Park, instead. He wants to find the ducks at the pond, to see if they are okay. It is freezing outside, and Holden feels icicles forming in the back of his hair. The hat-check girl made sure Holden put on his red hunting cap, but he is still cold.

Walking into the depths of Central Park in the dark, is not exactly the safest maneuver. Although Holden is very familiar with the park, most New Yorkers would be savvy enough to steer clear of Central Park at night because it is a great place to get mugged or even killed. Luckily for Holden nobody is in the park. Unfortunately, Holden drops the record he bought for Phoebe as he is climbing over the wall. The record shatters. Holden is very upset but picks up the broken record pieces and puts them in his coat pocket. He knows they are now useless, but he cannot bear to throw them in the trash. He gets lost trying to find the pond and tells us that he is glad nobody is around because he would be terrified if there were. Finally, Holden finds the duck pond. He walks all around the pond but does not find any ducks. Holden nearly falls into the icy water but can right himself. He finds a bench, and it is so cold he imagines freezing to death. Then he fantasizes about his funeral, and he feels so sorry for his mother. He imagines all the same people that attended Allie's funeral will also attend his funeral. We discover that Holden was in the hospital and did not attend his younger brother's funeral. He had broken his hand punching out the windows in the garage when he found out that Allie had died. Finally, he decides to stop thinking about dying and counts his money. He has three dollars, a few quarters and a nickel. That is all the money he has left. Holden decides to skip the coins on the pond.

Suddenly, Holden feels like talking to his little sister, Phoebe. He is worried about waking up his parents when he sneaks in the apartment, but he feels it is worth the risk. He thinks that Phoebe would miss him if he died of pneumonia from the cold. Happily, Holden decides to go home.

Holden needs to go through all kinds of sneaky maneuvers to get into his apartment building and his apartment. He takes great pains to be very quiet, so his parents do not wake up. Holden is not worried about waking the maid because she is deaf in one hear. When he finally gets to see Phoebe she is fast asleep in D.B.'s old room. He watches her for a while and also reads through all her notebooks. Holden feels much better now that he is home and seeing his beloved little sister. He admires Phoebe in every way possible. Finally, he wakes her up, and she is thrilled to see him. He says she can go from being sound asleep to wide awake in just seconds. He discovers that his parents are out at a party. Phoebe starts telling him all about a school play she has a good part in and asks Holden if he is coming to see the play. Phoebe will be playing Benedict Arnold. He says he will. After much-excited talking, Phoebe realizes that Holden must have gotten kicked out of school again because he has come home days early. She becomes extremely upset when he will not admit it. Phoebe starts to cry and say that their father is going to kill him. She puts her head under the pillow and won't speak to Holden. Holden cannot pull the pillow away from Phoebe. He says she is supernaturally strong when she wants to be.

Finally, Holden gives up and goes out to the living room looking for a cigarette. When he returns to see Phoebe, she is sitting next to the wall on the far side of the bed. She will not even look at him. Holden says, "She was ostracizing the hell out of me. Just like the fencing team at Pencey when I left the goddam foils in the subway." Holden tries joking around with her, but she will have none of it. Phoebe says, "You don't like anything that's happening." This truth depresses Holden, who says that, yes, he does like some things, some people. The only problem is that he cannot seem to think of any good things or people that he likes. He starts trying to think of someone and remembers this boy at Elkton Hills named James Castle. He admired James Castle because he stood up to some boys that wanted him to take back what he had said about someone. James had said that Phil Stabile was very conceited. Phil got a bunch of guys, and they went to James's room and tried to make him "take it back." However, James would not take it back, so they did something terrible to him. Holden does not want to tell us exactly what they did to him because "it was too repulsive". Even after all that, James would still not take it back, but instead threw himself out the window. Holden says, "I was in the shower, and all, and even I could hear him land outside." When Holden went outside, he saw blood everywhere and James's teeth lying around. He saw that James was dead. He tells us, "He had on this turtleneck sweater I'd lent him." Holden feels that the two nuns and James were the only ones he liked. However, then he tells us he never really even talked to James. He was surprised when James came and asked to borrow his turtleneck sweater. He wanted to borrow it because his cousin was visiting.

All of a sudden, Holden is awakened from this memory by Phoebe asking him again to name someone he liked.

Holden responds with "I like Allie." However, this does not satisfy Phoebe, who says that Allie is dead. Holden says that just because someone is dead does not mean that you still can't like them. He tells her he also likes sitting there talking to her. Phoebe says that is nothing, but Holden disagrees. Then she asks Holden what he wants to do when he grows up. Does he want to be a scientist or a lawyer? Holden says that there is this song, "When a body catch a body coming through the rye". But Phoebe corrects him and says it is a poem by Robert Burns and that it is "when a body meet a body coming through the rye." At any rate, he says he thought it was "catch a body", and would imagine a bunch of kids in a field of rye playing. He would be the only adult there with them. He says, "What I would do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over a cliff. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be a catcher in the rye, and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to do."

Holden suddenly decides to call his English teacher from Elkton Hills and leaves the room. He tells Phoebe not to fall asleep.

Phoebe calls out to Holden. He asks her what she wants. She tells him that she won a belching contest, and she demonstrates with a loud burp.

In these three chapters, Holden is still coming to terms with his younger brother's death. Allie's death also brings up thoughts of his mortality and we see this as he imagines his funeral and compares it to Allie's funeral. Phoebe is also a central figure in Holden's life, and she is the one person he feels can truly understand him. Phoebe is remarkably intuitive for a ten-year-old, but she does not understand why Holden keeps flunking out of school. She may also be puzzled by his dream of being a catcher in the rye. Holden's desire to be a catcher in the rye is his attempt to compensate for his inability to save Allie from death. The death of his friend, James Castle is also another example of an innocent dying from the ignorant cruelty of the world. The fact that he died in Holden's turtleneck sweater may indicate that death touched Holden once again, that it brushed against him but did not take Holden.

Related Links:

Catcher in the Rye Chapters 23 - 24 Summary
Catcher in the Rye Chapters 25 - 26 Summary
The Catcher in the Rye Summary
Catcher in the Rye Quiz
Literature Summaries

To link to this Catcher in the Rye Chapters 20 - 22 Summary page, copy the following code to your site: