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The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below (which look like this:
make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.
Analysis & Themes
Phoebe asks why Holden flunked out of Pencey. He tries to explain about phonies. Phoebe says Holden doesn't like anything and challenges him to name one thing he likes a lot.
Holden makes his usual claim that his alienation is society's fault, but Phoebe won't let him get away with it.
While thinking up an answer, Holden's mind wanders to the nuns he met that morning, and to James Castle, an Elkton Hills student who committed suicide by jumping out his room window after being bullied by classmates.
Whenever anyone tries to question Holden he immediately thinks of escape, whether a monastery or suicide..
Holden finally says he likes Allie and talking to Phoebe. Phoebe says that doesn't count because Allie is dead.
Holden hates the living world because he's trying to preserve a dead world.
Phoebe then asks Holden what he would like to be. After some thought, he mentions the lyric "If a body catch a body coming through the rye," and says he'd like most to be a catcher in the rye who rescues children from falling off a cliff while playing in a rye field.
Holden's goal in life is to save children from falling off a cliff, just as he wants to save himself from falling into adulthood. This is a really crazy answer. It has no basis in reality.
Phoebe realizes that Holden has misheard the words to a Robert Browning poem. She explains that the actual line from the poem is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye."
The correct poem refers to a sexual encounter. Holden hears what he wants to hear: an innocent version.
Holden thinks about calling up Mr. Antolini, his former English teacher at Elkton Hills.
With his fantasy gone, Holden looks for a new escape.