A Pedophile Fantasy in the Rye

In a prior article available on this site, J.D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye was shown to contain a hidden symbolic level that depicted Holden Caulfield’s initiation into the Freemasons. The article also showed that Salinger described a kind of Freemasonry that did not shy away from violence to protect its secrets.

Will Weaver, blogging at the Huffington Post, noticed another disturbing fact about JD Salinger’s literature:

As we pass the two-year anniversary of J.D. Salinger’s death, why is it that no one remarks on the obvious? In his life and in his fiction, Salinger had a predilection for young girls and women that, at least from a 21st century lens, does not seem all that healthy.

The first story in Salinger’s collectionNine Stories, includes a scene at a beach with a “young man” (in his twenties) and a little girl. She is described as wearing a two-piece bathing suit that she would “not be needing” for nine or ten years. That’s slightly creepy coming from a grown guy. But he knows her by name, and our inner parent lets out a sigh of relief — until he compliments her again on her bathing suit. Soon he is holding her hand as they walk further down the beach where they go swimming together, and, in an intensely described scene, he helps her float by holding her ankles.

A story or two later in the collection we find a soldier in World War II, who, after reading some letters from his wife, goes out for tea. He encounters a governess and her ten-year-old charge. The little girl is quite friendly, and wears anklets and has “lovely” feet. When it’s certain they’ll talk, the soldier becomes concerned about the gap in his teeth, and the color of his mustache. Weirdness Alert: why, when about to talk to a young girl, would a grown man be concerned about his looks?

And if you look closely at Catcher In The Rye, there are odd moments of Holden watching the skater, or sitting in his young sister’s bedroom — Holden with his gray hair, remember. But an Existentialist reading, in full critical flower when Salinger was publishing and still fragrant in his work today, forgives almost everything. It’s all about “alienation,” his fans maintain. Okay. But these facts remain: about 75 percent of Salinger’s fiction centers on characters under the age of 21, and of that, about half on girls under the age of twelve.

Unfettered by any Existentialist pleasantries, we would like to put Salinger’s “alienation” into a more Postflavian context. Our suggestion is that Salinger’s encrypted message needs to be understood as a consequence of his being a member of military intelligence during WWII.

MK-Ultra, the CIA, and the Counter Culture

Following the war the OSS transitioned into the CIA and began a secret program called MK Ultra.  As shown in our article “Manufacturing the Deadhead“, this program was instrumental to the creation of what was called the counter culture – the cultural force that caused America’s youth to abandon their middle class values and embrace sex, drugs and rock and roll as freedom. This was presumably done at the direction of some hidden power that wished to debase the morals and intellect of the baby boomer generation to make them easier to control. In fact, MK Ultra intended to place them within a kind of mental slavery.

We ask the reader to consider whether Salinger created The Catcher in the Rye as part of this project. Culture moves slowly, and the book seems to have been intended to operate as a precursor to the more destructive ideas about sex, drugs and music that would follow. The book helped to – among other things – began the process of isolating teen-agers from their parents in order to break down the family structure. The trend started by Holden Caulfield’s lonely teen-age angst, would end up in Woodstock with drugged out baby boomers experiencing casual sex in the mud while their rock idols – many of whom were the children of military intelligence– played music designed to diminish their intellect.

Furthermore, we contend that part of Salinger’s attack against America’s youth was directed against their subconscious. By 1951 and the publication of Catcher in the Rye, the CIA had already begun to study the subconscious to learn how to use it for control. Specifically, Gregory Bateson had established a scholarly relationship with hypnotist Milton Erickson as early as 1932. (As we will be demonstrating in a new article to appear shortly, Bateson was another  key figure in the early development of the OSS and the CIA and their program to create the counter culture.) Bateson would have been fascinated with  Erickson’s research, which involved the idea that hypnotically effective trance states could be established in the course of ordinary life activities such as reading, talking to a therapist, or watching motion pictures, especially if intense and traumatic emotional states could be evoked by the experience. During such trance states, Erickson believed, the subconscious mind of the the target could be accessed by means of hypnotic suggestion.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

This idea was later taken up by Bateson proteges Richard Bandler and John Grinder, who commercialized it as the system of “Neuro-Linguistic Programming”, described in their 1975 work “The Structure of Magic“. They drew on Noam Chomsky’s theory of transformational grammar to explain that the subliminal messages could be formed within a deep linguistic structure lurking beneath the surface interpretation.

An interesting example of this is found on the cover of the Life Magazine that described Gordon Wasson’s 1957 article which began the public’s awareness of psychedelic drugs.


The Life Magazine cover highlights a box and inside the box are the words:

Great Adventures in The Discovery of Mushrooms That Cause Strange Visions


Teen Age Allowances

Gordon Wasson’s ‘discovery’ has now been shown to be part of MK Ultra. His trip had the official MK Ultra designation of sub project 58. Wasson’s story has also been shown to be a lie. See the article on this site, “Manufacturing the Deadhead“, for a description of the evidence.

What we are seeing on Life’s cover seems to be an early example of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. On the surface, it appears that the items in the box refer to two different articles on two different subjects. However, considering that this was the grand initiation of the MK Ultra project that intended to move teen-age culture to accept psychedelic drugs, it stretches the bounds of credulity to argue that this breathless invitation to “Great Adventures” could have been juxtaposed to the words ‘Teen Age Allowances’ by accident. Bert Lahr, the “Cowardly Lion” and “Bumbling Lover”, seems to be part of the tableau in the role of a clown. Real men and teenagers go boldly, not bumbling, into the great adventure. Every citizen should study the cover of the May 13, 1957 edition carefully. It reveals the sad and horrible truth that there is some organization with destructive intent hidden within our government and media.

As a member of military intelligence, Salinger may well have been aware of science that Bateson and Erickson were developing to influence the subconscious. Our view is that he intentionally used an early form of neuro-linguistic programming in a subtheme within Catcher in the Rye. Salinger designed the theme to operate subconsciously and break down his reader’s résistance to inappropriate sexuality.

Holden and Phoebe, best of friends?

On a surface level, the relationship between the sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield and his ten-year-old sister Phoebe appears to be a strong and affectionate brother-sister bond which has generally been praised by critics. For example, see this commentary at LitCharts.com:

Though only ten years old, Phoebe is considerably more mature than Holden. She is a voice of reason throughout the novel, both in Holden’s thoughts and in the advice she gives to him in person. Phoebe is also unusually perceptive: her insight into Holden’s misanthropy, his hatred of almost everything, is a key turning point in the novel. It’s no coincidence that perhaps the most level headed and intelligent character in the novel is a child. Holden idealizes childhood and values children’s ideas and opinions more than those of adults. Phoebe’s intelligence and wise counsel offer a strong contrast to the lectures he receives from the various teachers and headmasters that he despises.

However, under closer scrutiny, Holden and Phoebe express feelings and actions for each other which are well along the slippery slope that leads to incest and pedophilia. This would help set the stage for the baby boomers’ acceptance of the free love (and no marriage) culture of the sixties.

The “Sex Maniac”.

Salinger begins his assault on his male readers’ subconscious by having his anti-hero state that he is a “sex maniac” and describing sexual activity designed to open his reader’s subconscious to such behavior. Holden admits that he would do some “very crumby stuff ” if the opportunity came up. What teenage boy wouldn’t?

The trouble was, that kind of junk is sort of fascinating to watch, even if you don’t want it to be. For instance, that girl that was getting water squirted all over her face, she was pretty good-looking. I mean that’s my big trouble. In my mind, I’m probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw. Sometimes I can think of very crumby stuff I wouldn’t mind doing if the opportunity came up. I can even see how it might be quite a lot of fun, in a crumby way, and if you were both sort of drunk and all, to get a girl and squirt water or something all over each other’s face. The thing is, though, I don’t like the idea. It stinks, if you analyze it. I think if you don’t really like a girl, you shouldn’t horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you’re supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it. It’s really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes. Girls aren’t too much help, either, when you start trying not to get too crumby, when you start trying not to spoil anything really good. I knew this one girl, a couple of years ago, that was even crumbier than I was. Boy, was she crumby! We had a lot of fun, though, for a while, in a crumby way. Sex is something I really don’t understand too hot. You never know where the hell you are. I keep making up these sex rules for myself, and then I break them right away.

Although, in fact, Holden’s “crumby” squirting fetish seems relatively harmless, incest and child abuse are definitely not in the same category.  Although Egyptian royalty may have engaged in brother-sister marriages to preserve the purity of the bloodline, this behavior is well known to lead quickly to expression of maladaptive recessive genes causing monstrous birth defects. Avoidance of such relations seems to be instinctive among many mammalian species as well as humans. Accordingly, the near-universal human taboo on incest (that is, aside from Egyptian royalty) is highly functional and in accordance with natural law; the same cannot be said for Salinger’s work.

Furthermore, of course, prepubescent children are not physically or psychologically ready for sexual activity with adults, and such activity often leads to trauma and to a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder which is very difficult to overcome later in life. This is an extremely widespread problem in America today; one estimate claims that as many as 28% to 33% of all American females were subject to childhood sexual abuse.

Madonna-Whore Complex

In the passage above, Caulfield is also expressing a madonna-whore complex, which is defined as “the inability to maintain sexual arousal within a committed, loving relationship… this psychological complex is said to develop in men who see women either as saintly Madonnas or debased prostitutes”. Holden’s problem is only compounded by the fact that he sees himself as sexually aroused primarily by his fetish for squirting “water or something”. Accordingly, Caulfield engages in “necking” and “horsing around” with characters like Sally Hayes and Anne Louise Sherman who he does not respect, while he idealizes Jane Gallagher, who he can hardly bring himself to touch aside from genteel hand-holding. The thought of Jane behaving sexually with his roommate Stradlater drives Caulfield into a frenzy. Ironically, Caulfield hires a prostitute, Sunny, and winds up placing her on this same Madonna pedestal. Thus, he remains endlessly virginal and sexually frustrated. We aren’t even sure Holden would understand how to go about having sexual intercourse if the opportunity presented itself, much less whether he understands what “crumby” behavior really might entail.

Holden Caulfield’s sister Phoebe is also idealized as a sort of Madonna, most saintly and yet most desirable. Salinger described Phoebe as “nice skinny” and “roller skate” skinny”. With his descriptions, Salinger is connecting the subconscious mind of his young male readers to the idea of a sexually desirable but underage girl. At the same time, because of the Madonna-Whore complex, Holden Caulfield is blinded to his sexual attraction towards his sister; as is the casual reader.

But you ought to see old Phoebe. She has this sort of red hair, a little bit like Allie’s was, that’s very short in the summertime. In the summertime, she sticks it behind her ears. She has nice, pretty little ears. In the wintertime, it’s pretty long, though. Sometimes my mother braids it and sometimes she doesn’t. It’s really nice, though. She’s only ten. She’s quite skinny, like me, but nice skinny. Roller-skate skinny. I watched her once from the window when she was crossing over Fifth Avenue to go to the park, and that’s what she is, roller-skate skinny. You’d like her.

Salinger then describes Phoebe as dressed up as an adult. This is done to create the sense of Phoebe as a sexual being in the minds of his readers. But, at the same time, the imagery of white gloves maintains the illusion of her purity and inaccessibility.

Old Phoebe. I swear to God you’d like her. She was smart even when she was a very tiny little kid. When she was a very tiny little kid, I and Allie used to take her to the park with us, especially on Sundays. Allie had this sailboat he used to like to fool around with on Sundays, and we used to take old Phoebe with us. She’d wear white gloves and walk right between us, like a lady and all.

Salinger mentions Holden’s touching of his sister. Notice that Salinger is creating a parallel between Holden’s touch, with that of a slightly older adolescent girl’s tentatively sexual touching of Holden.

One other thing I just thought of. One time, in this movie, Jane did something that just about knocked me out. The newsreel was on or something, and all of a sudden I felt this hand on the back of my neck, and it was Jane’s. It was a funny thing to do. I mean she was quite young and all, and most girls if you see them putting their hand on the back of somebody’s neck, they’re around twenty-five or thirty and usually they’re doing it to their husband or their little kid–I do it to my kid sister Phoebe once in a while, for instance. But if a girl’s quite young and all and she does it, it’s so pretty it just about kills you.

Salinger goes on to describe a record Holden buys for Phoebe. He sexualizes this gift by noting that he bought her the “whorehouse” version of a child’s song for his sister. The reference to “Little Shirley Beans” may represent Shirley Temple, the prepubescent Hollywood idol who remarked in her 1988 autobiography that she was also ashamed of her missing teeth. The scene precedes and foreshadows Holden’s fantasy of catching children falling off the cliff as they are playing in the rye field, which takes on an even more creepy pedophiliac tone in the context of imagining the nubile little Shirley (Temple) Beans in semantic juxtaposition to the whorehouse:

I started walking over toward Broadway, just for the hell of it, because I hadn’t been over there in years. Besides, I wanted to find a record store that was open on Sunday. There was this record I wanted to get for Phoebe, called “Little Shirley Beans.” It was a very hard record to get. It was about a little kid that wouldn’t go out of the house because two of her front teeth were out and she was ashamed to. I heard it at Pencey. A boy that lived on the next floor had it, and I tried to buy it off him because I knew it would knock old Phoebe out, but he wouldn’t sell it. It was a very old, terrific record that this colored girl singer, Estelle Fletcher, made about twenty years ago. She sings it very Dixieland and whorehouse, and it doesn’t sound at all mushy. If a white girl was singing it, she’d make it sound cute as hell, but old Estelle Fletcher knew what the hell she was doing, and it was one of the best records I ever heard. I figured I’d buy it in some store that was open on Sunday and then I’d take it up to the park with me. It was Sunday and Phoebe goes rollerskating in the park on Sundays quite frequently. I knew where she hung out mostly.

A relationship “too affectionate”

Holden then makes a secret visit to his sister’s bedroom. He describes himself as a criminal because he is trying to avoid an encounter with his parents, but it also creates a sinister subtext for the midnight tryst with Phoebe.

I got off at our floor–limping like a bastard–and started walking over toward the Dicksteins’ side. Then, when I heard the elevator doors shut, I turned around and went over to our side. I was doing all right. I didn’t even feel drunk anymore. Then I took out my door key and opened our door, quiet as hell. Then, very, very carefully and all, I went inside and closed the door. I really should’ve been a crook. 

It was dark as hell in the foyer, naturally, and naturally I couldn’t turn on any lights. I had to be careful not to bump into anything and make a racket. I certainly knew I was home, though. Our foyer has a funny smell that doesn’t smell like anyplace else. I don’t know what the hell it is. It isn’t cauliflower and it isn’t perfume–I don’t know what the hell it is–but you always know you’re home. I started to take off my coat and hang it up in the foyer closet, but that closet’s full of hangers that rattle like madmen when you open the door, so I left it on. Then I started walking very, very slowly back toward old Phoebe’s room. 

Holden finds his sister asleep in his oldest brother’s bed. The fact that she is in an adult’s bed suggests that Phoebe is ready for adult activity.

Finally, after about an hour, I got to old Phoebe’s room. She wasn’t there, though. I forgot about that. I forgot she always sleeps in D.B.’s room when he’s away in Hollywood or some place. She likes it because it’s the biggest room in the house. Also because it has this big old madman desk in it that D.B. bought off some lady alcoholic in Philadelphia, and this big, gigantic bed that’s about ten miles wide and ten miles long. I don’t know where he bought that bed.

Holden describes his sister’s bed and asks the bizarre question: “What’s old Phoebe got to spread out?” Phoebe would presumably answer that she needed the room for all her books and papers. Holden answers his own question with a denial, stating that Phoebe has nothing to spread out.  But Salinger knows that his readers’ subconscious will suggest another answer – her legs.

Anyway, old Phoebe likes to sleep in D.B.’s room when he’s away, and he lets her. You ought to see her doing her homework or something at that crazy desk. It’s almost as big as the bed. You can hardly see her when she’s doing her homework. That’s the kind of stuff she likes, though. She doesn’t like her own room because it’s too little, she says. She says she likes to spread out. That kills me. What’s old Phoebe got to spread out? Nothing. 

Holden finds his sister asleep but – for some reason – he notices that her mouth is open, and imagines spit all over the pillow. This connects to subliminal visions of oral sex, and Holden’s facial squirting fetish.

Anyway, I went into D.B.’s room quiet as hell, and turned on the lamp on the desk. Old Phoebe didn’t even wake up. When the light was on and all, I sort of looked at her for a while. She was laying there asleep, with her face sort of on the side of the pillow. She had her mouth way open. It’s funny. You take adults, they look lousy when they’re asleep and they have their mouths way open, but kids don’t. Kids look all right. They can even have spit all over the pillow and they still look all right. 

Salinger describes Phoebe’s clothes next to the bed, suggesting her nakedness. Caulfield’s narrative avoids mentioning whether she is wearing a nightgown, although he is generally very attentive to Phoebe’s attire. Much later, Holden notices that Phoebe is wearing sleeveless pajamas.

I went around the room, very quiet and all, looking at stuff for a while. I felt swell, for a change. I didn’t even feel like I was getting pneumonia or anything any more. I just felt good, for a change. Old Phoebe’s clothes were on this chair right next to the bed. She’s very neat, for a child. I mean she doesn’t just throw her stuff around, like some kids. She’s no slob. She had the jacket to this tan suit my mother bought her in Canada hung up on the back of the chair. Then her blouse and stuff were on the seat. Her shoes and socks were on the floor, right underneath the chair, right next to each other. I never saw the shoes before. They were new. They were these dark brown loafers, sort of like this pair I have, and they went swell with that suit my mother bought her in Canada. My mother dresses her nice. She really does. My mother has terrific taste in some things. She’s no good at buying ice skates or anything like that, but clothes, she’s perfect.  

Holden wakes his sister up. They immediately began a physical relationship that is described as “too affectionate”. Holden thinks it is “too affectionate” presumably because of its sexual nature. Holden returns the hug with a kiss. Is this “too affectionate” as well? Salinger directs the readers’ attention away from this question, quickly bringing their interaction back to a level of chatty banter.

She wakes up very easily. I mean you don’t have to yell at her or anything. All you have to do, practically, is sit down on the bed and say, “Wake up, Phoeb,” and bingo, she’s awake.

“Holden!” she said right away. She put her arms around my neck and all. She’s very affectionate. I mean she’s quite affectionate, for a child. Sometimes she’s even too affectionate. I sort of gave her a kiss, and she said, “Whenja get home?’ She was glad as hell to see me. You could tell. 

They talk about a flirtatious interaction Phoebe has had with another boy in her class, Curtis Weintraub. He pushed Phoebe down the stairs, because Phoebe had painted ink on his windbreaker. Salinger has Holden chide the ten-year old Phoebe for her childish tit-for-tat behavior, while hinting on the contrary that she is an adult ready for sex.

What are you–a child, for God’s sake?” 

A Very Hot Dance

Salinger descries Holden and Phoebe having rough physical contact on their bed, as Phoebe is outraged to learn that Holden has failed again at school. While the conscious mind is focused on the drama of their conflict,  the subconscious is simultaneously tantalized with images of sex play.

“I told you. They let us out early. They let the whole–” 

“You did get kicked out! You did!” old Phoebe said. Then she hit me on the leg with her fist. She gets very fisty when she feels like it. “You did! Oh, Holden!” She had her hand on her mouth and all. She gets very emotional, I swear to God. 

“Who said I got kicked out? Nobody said I–” 

“You did. You did,” she said. Then she smacked me again with her fist. If you don’t think that hurts, you’re crazy. “Daddy’ll kill you!” she said. Then she flopped on her stomach on the bed and put the goddam pillow over her head. She does that quite frequently. She’s a true madman sometimes. 

“Cut it out, now,” I said. “Nobody’s gonna kill me. Nobody’s gonna even–C’mon, Phoeb, take that goddam thing off your head. Nobody’s gonna kill me.” 

She wouldn’t take it off, though. You can’t make her do something if she doesn’t want to. All she kept saying was, “Daddy s gonna kill you.” You could hardly understand her with that goddam pillow over her head. 


She wouldn t take it off, though I tried pulling it off, but she’s strong as hell. You get tired fighting with her. Boy, if she wants to keep a pillow over her head, she keeps it. “Phoebe, please. C’mon outa there,” I kept saying. “C’mon, hey . . . Hey, Weatherfield. C’mon out.” 

She wouldn’t come out, though. []

When I came back, she had the pillow off her head all right–I knew she would– but she still wouldn’t look at me, even though she was laying on her back and all. When I came around the side of the bed and sat down again, she turned her crazy face the other way. She was ostracizing the hell out of me.

In response to Phoebe’s withdrawal, Holden pinches Phoebe on her ass. While Holden tells us this is playfully “just for the hell of it”, there is no denying Salinger’s intent here, which is to trick the reader into accepting that such invasively flirtatious behavior is normal between affectionate siblings. But wait, let’s do a double take: Holden is sixteen and is fully mature sexually, while his sister is still a child. Uuugh… this is NOT okay. Note that Phoebe’s attempted retaliation is completely ineffectual. One must ask: why has such a book become mandatory reading for America’s young adults?

“No, I didn’t,” I said. “I passed English.” Then, just for the hell of it, I gave her a pinch on the behind. It was sticking way out in the breeze, the way she was laying on her side. She has hardly any behind. I didn’t do it hard, but she tried to hit my hand anyway, but she missed. 

Salinger describes Phoebe’s mouth is an awkward position. Within the context it suggests the possibility of oral sex.

Old Phoebe said something then, but I couldn’t hear her. She had the side of her mouth right smack on the pillow, and I couldn’t hear her. 

“What?” I said. “Take your mouth away. I can’t hear you with your mouth that way.” 

While she is lying in bed and he is sitting next to her, Phoebe challenges Holden to name one thing he likes a lot.

 “Because you don’t. You don’t like any schools. You don’t like a million things. You don’t.”

“I do! That’s where you’re wrong–that’s exactly where you’re wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that?” I said. Boy, was she depressing me.

“Because you don’t,” she said. “Name one thing.”

“One thing? One thing I like?” I said. “Okay.”

The trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate too hot. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate. “One thing I like a lot you mean?” I asked her.

She didn’t answer me, though. She was in a cockeyed position way the hell over the other side of the bed. She was about a thousand miles away. “C’mon answer me,” I said. “One thing I like a lot, or one thing I just like?”

“You like a lot.” 

Holden struggles to find an answer, remembering the story of James Castle’s death in an extensive internal dialog, before returning to Phoebe’s question. He admits that he likes horsing around with Phoebe, but she doesn’t believe their interaction has any great significance, certainly nothing that Holden should be living for.

“What?” I said to old Phoebe. She said something to me, but I didn’t hear her. “You can’t even think of one thing.”

“Yes, I can. Yes, I can.”

“Well, do it, then.”

“I like Allie,” I said. “And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, and–“

“Allie’s dead–You always say that! If somebody’s dead and everything, and in Heaven, then it isn’t really–“

“I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake– especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”

Old Phoebe didn’t say anything. When she can’t think of anything to say, she doesn’t say a goddam word.

“Anyway, I like it now,” I said. “I mean right now. Sitting here with you and just chewing the fat and horsing–“

“That isn’t anything really!”

“It is so something really! Certainly it is! Why the hell isn’t it? People never think anything is anything really. I’m getting goddam sick of it.”

The reader’s subconscious is led to consider that what Holden really wants is sex. He is, after all, a teenage young man and admitted “sex maniac”. But, that would be incest as well as child abuse, right? The Caulfield siblings quickly skate away from the implications.

Holden tells Phoebe of his fantasy of catching children playing in the rye field as they are about to fall off of a cliff. Phoebe ignores and then rebuffs the dream, so Holden bolts from the bedroom to make a phone call, to set up his later visit with Mr. Antolini. As he exits, Holden mentions his awareness that his sister is “pretty”, which of course also means desirable.

I got up from the bed then, because what I wanted to do, I wanted to phone up this guy that was my English teacher at Elkton Hills, Mr. Antolini. He lived in New York now. He quit Elkton Hills. He took this job teaching English at N.Y.U. “I have to make a phone call,” I told Phoebe. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go to sleep.” I didn’t want her to go to sleep while I was in the living room. I knew she wouldn’t but I said it anyway, just to make sure.

While I was walking toward the door, old Phoebe said, “Holden!” and I turned around. 

She was sitting way up in bed. She looked so pretty. 

After completing his phone call,  Holden makes a second visit to his sister’s bedroom. He finds Phoebe in a yoga position. In other words, she is sitting spread legged. She has forgiven Holden, and wants to re-engage him. Holden’s unconscious push-pull seduction has been successful. Holden and Phoebe engage in close contact dancing and in between the dances, Phoebe continues clinging to her brother’s body.  Note that Salinger also describes the yanking up of a dress of a little girl, something that Holden would not do in public. In the scene they are alone, and the reader’s subconscious is directed to the image of Phoebe’s dress being lifted.

When I got back to D.B.’s room, old Phoebe’d turned the radio on. This dance music was coming out. She’d turned it on low, though, so the maid wouldn’t hear it. You should’ve seen her. She was sitting smack in the middle of the bed, outside the covers, with her legs folded like one of those Yogi guys. She was listening to the music. She kills me. 

“C’mon,” I said. “You feel like dancing?” I taught her how to dance and all when she was a tiny little kid. She’s a very good dancer. I mean I just taught her a few things. She learned it mostly by herself. You can’t teach somebody how to really dance. 

“You have shoes on,” she said.

“I’ll take ’em off. C’mon.”

She practically jumped off the bed, and then she waited while I took my shoes off, and then I danced with her for a while. She’s really damn good. I don’t like people that dance with little kids, because most of the time it looks terrible. I mean if you’re out at a restaurant somewhere and you see some old guy take his little kid out on the dance floor. Usually they keep yanking the kid’s dress up in the back by mistake, and the kid can’t dance worth a damn anyway, and it looks terrible, but I don’t do it out in public with Phoebe or anything. We just horse around in the house. It’s different with her anyway, because she can dance. She can follow anything you do. I mean if you hold her in close as hell so that it doesn’t matter that your legs are so much longer. She stays right with you. You can cross over, or do some corny dips, or even jitterbug a little, and she stays right with you. You can even tango, for God’s sake. 

We danced about four numbers. In between numbers she’s funny as hell. She stays right in position. She won’t even talk or anything. You both have to stay right in position and wait for the orchestra to start playing again. That kills me. You’re not supposed to laugh or anything, either. 

Anyway, we danced about four numbers, and then I turned off the radio. Old Phoebe jumped back in bed and got under the covers. “I’m improving, aren’t I?” she asked me. 

After dancing the couple returns to their bed and Phoebe has Holden touch her to feel her body’s heat, playfully and unconsciously suggesting the sexual heat after intercourse.

“And how,” I said. I sat down next to her on the bed again. I was sort of out of breath. I was smoking so damn much, I had hardly any wind. She wasn’t even out of breath. 

“Feel my forehead,” she said all of a sudden. “Why?”
“Feel it. Just feel it once.”
I felt it. I didn’t feel anything, though. 

“Does it feel very feverish?” she said. 

“No. Is it supposed to?”
“Yes–I’m making it. Feel it again.”
I felt it again, and I still didn’t feel anything, but I said, “I think it’s starting to, 
now.” I didn’t want her to get a goddam inferiority complex.

She nodded. “I can make it go up to over the thermoneter.”
“Thermometer. Who said so?”
“Alice Holmborg showed me how. You cross your legs and hold your breath and 
think of something very, very hot. A radiator or something. Then your whole forehead gets so hot you can burn somebody’s hand.” 

That killed me. I pulled my hand away from her forehead, like I was in terrific danger. “Thanks for telling me,” I said. 

“Oh, I wouldn’t’ve burned your hand. I’d’ve stopped before it got too–Shhh!” Then, quick as hell, she sat way the hell up in bed.

She scared hell out of me when she did that. “What’s the matter?” I said. “The front door!” she said in this loud whisper. “It’s them!”

Don’t Tell Mommy and Daddy

While Holden hides in the closet, Phoebe lies about her contact with Holden to her mother. This suggests the willingness of the young victim to engage in incest and hide the relationship from the world.

I heard my mother go out and close the door. I waited a couple of minutes. Then I came out of the closet. I bumped smack into old Phoebe when I did it, because it was so dark and she was out of bed and coming to tell me. “I hurt you?” I said. You had to whisper now, because they were both home. “I gotta get a move on,” I said. I found the edge of the bed in the dark and sat down on it and started putting on my shoes. I was pretty nervous. I admit it.

“Don’t go now,” Phoebe whispered. “Wait’ll they’re asleep!” 

Phoebe offers Holden money to tide him over, and Holden cries. Fearful, Phoebe pleads with Holden to stay:

She told me I could sleep with her if I wanted to, but I said no, that I’d better beat it, that Mr. Antolini was waiting for me and all.

Holden departs undetected, and goes to the Antolini apartment. The theme of unwanted sexual intent emerges again in the meeting with Mr. Antolini, as he approaches Holden with an affection that Holden detests as latently homosexual. An overt manifestation of such an affection would be statutory rape, as Holden himself is still an adolescent. Mr. Antolini represents the highest authority of Freemasonry. Is this yet another hint of a dark secret within? The question is very important, though it goes beyond the scope of this article.

Please take me with you…

After the meeting with Antolini, Holden arranges a meeting with Phoebe at the museum (that is, the temple). Salinger’s last scene within the theme describes Phoebe’s wish to run away with Holden, a common pedophile fantasy. The abuser likes to imagine that the abuse is not only harmless, but even invited or appreciated.

Phoebe tells Holden that if he allows her to run away with him, she will not bring any clothes. Her nakedness is subliminally suggested, and the statement demonstrates the clarity of the thesis that the relationship between Holden and his sister was structured to subconsciously influence the reader toward sexual permissiveness.

Finally, I saw her. I saw her through the glass part of the door. The reason I saw her, she had my crazy hunting hat on–you could see that hat about ten miles away. 

I went out the doors and started down these stone stairs to meet her. The thing I couldn’t understand, she had this big suitcase with her. She was just coming across Fifth Avenue, and she was dragging this goddam big suitcase with her. She could hardly drag it. When I got up closer, I saw it was my old suitcase, the one I used to use when I was at Whooton. I couldn’t figure out what the hell she was doing with it. “Hi,” she said when she got up close. She was all out of breath from that crazy suitcase. 

“I thought maybe you weren’t coming,” I said. “What the hell’s in that bag? I don’t need anything. I’m just going the way I am. I’m not even taking the bags I got at the station. What the hellya got in there?” 

She put the suitcase down. “My clothes,” she said. “I’m going with you. Can I? Okay?” 

“What?” I said. I almost fell over when she said that. I swear to God I did. I got sort of dizzy and I thought I was going to pass out or something again. 

“I took them down the back elevator so Charlene wouldn’t see me. It isn’t heavy. All I have in it is two dresses and my moccasins and my underwear and socks and some other things. Feel it. It isn’t heavy. Feel it once. . . Can’t I go with you? Holden? Can’t I? Please.” 

“No. Shut up.” 

I thought I was going to pass out cold. I mean I didn’t mean to tell her to shut up and all, but I thought I was going to pass out again. 

“Why can’t I? Please, Holden! I won’t do anything– I’ll just go with you, that’s all! I won’t even take my clothes with me if you don’t want me to–I’ll just take my–” 

Holden refuses to let Phoebe run away with him, and the couple engage in physical touching.

“You can’t take anything. Because you’re not going. I’m going alone. So shut up.” “Please, Holden. Please let me go. I’ll be very, very, very–You won’t even–” “You’re not going. Now, shut up! Gimme that bag,” I said. I took the bag off her. I was almost all set to hit her, I thought I was going to smack her for a second. I really did. She started to cry. 

“I thought you were supposed to be in a play at school and all I thought you were supposed to be Benedict Arnold in that play and all,” I said. I said it very nasty. “Whuddaya want to do? Not be in the play, for God’s sake?” That made her cry even harder. I was glad. All of a sudden I wanted her to cry till her eyes practically dropped out. I almost hated her. I think I hated her most because she wouldn’t be in that play any more if she went away with me. 

“Come on,” I said. I started up the steps to the museum again. I figured what I’d do was, I’d check the crazy suitcase she’d brought in the checkroom, andy then she could get it again at three o’clock, after school. I knew she couldn’t take it back to school with her. “Come on, now,” I said. 

She didn’t go up the steps with me, though. She wouldn’t come with me. I went up anyway, though, and brought the bag in the checkroom and checked it, and then I came down again. She was still standing there on the sidewalk, but she turned her back on me when I came up to her. She can do that. She can turn her back on you when she feels like it. “I’m not going away anywhere. I changed my mind. So stop crying, and shut up,” I said. The funny part was, she wasn’t even crying when I said that. I said it anyway, though, “C’mon, now. I’ll walk you back to school. C’mon, now. You’ll be late.” 

She wouldn’t answer me or anything. I sort of tried to get hold of her old hand, but she wouldn’t let me. She kept turning around on me. 

“Didja have your lunch? Ya had your lunch yet?” I asked her. 

The return of the red people-shooting hat

She wouldn’t answer me. All she did was, she took off my red hunting hat–the one I gave her–and practically chucked it right in my face. Then she turned her back on me again. It nearly killed me, but I didn’t say anything. I just picked it up and stuck it in my coat pocket. 

“Come on, hey. I’ll walk you back to school,” I said. 

“I’m not going back to school.” 

I didn’t know what to say when she said that. I just stood there for a couple of minutes. 

“You have to go back to school. You want to be in that play, don’t you? You want to be Benedict Arnold, don’t you?” 


“Sure you do. Certainly you do. C’mon, now, let’s go,” I said. “In the first place, I’m not going away anywhere, I told you. I’m going home. I’m going home as soon as you go back to school. First I’m gonna go down to the station and get my bags, and then I’m gonna go straight–” 

“I said I’m not going back to school. You can do what you want to do, but I’m not going back to chool,” she said. “So shut up.” It was the first time she ever told me to shut up. It sounded terrible. God, it sounded terrible. It sounded worse than swearing. She still wouldn’t look at me either, and every time I sort of put my hand on her shoulder or something, she wouldn’t let me.

Holden asks Phoebe to walk with him, and she runs away from him, but he walks towards the zoo and she follows him. Finally, Phoebe makes the statement of a jilted wife or lover to Holden: “Keep your hands to yourself”. 

There weren’t too many people in the zoo because it was sort of a lousy day, but there were a few around the sea lions’ swimming pool and all. I started to go by but old Phoebe stopped and made out she was watching the sea lions getting fed–a guy was throwing fish at them–so I went back. I figured it was a good chance to catch up with her and all. I went up and sort of stood behind her and sort of put my hands on her shoulders, but she bent her knees and slid out from me–she can certainly be very snotty when she wants to. She kept standing there while the sea lions were getting fed and I stood right behind her. I didn’t put my hands on her shoulders again or anything because if I had she really would’ve beat it on me. Kids are funny. You have to watch what you’re doing. 

After we left the bears, we left the zoo and crossed over this little street in the park, and then we went through one of those little tunnels that always smell from somebody’s taking a leak. It was on the way to the carrousel. Old Phoebe still wouldn’t talk to me or anything, but she was sort of walking next to me now. I took a hold of the belt at the back of her coat, just for the hell of it, but she wouldn’t let me. She said, “Keep your hands to yourself, if you don’t mind.”

Holden wins his way back to his sister’s good graces one more time, by tempting her with a ride on a carrousel. He wears his red shooting hat as he watches her go around and around, and both siblings are filled with happiness. Who knows what is really going on here? Smoke gets in your eyes. Is this a subliminal mass murder scene, or is Phoebe enjoying sexual experiences with her horse, either in reality or in Holden’s imagination? Or is there a parallel being drawn between genocide and sexuality? The mind can only recoil at the possibilities.

As is often the case with black propaganda projects such as this, the perpetrators were striving for plausible deniability. However, hopefully this subterfuge will be effective only for the most extremely credulous and/or skeptical critics of our work. We believe that the sexual implications of Phoebe and Holden’s relationship, although well hidden, are obvious enough once they’re pointed out.

In terms of DSM-IV diagnosis, Holden Caulfield is not a pedophile in the sense that his sexual interests and activities also involve adults, and his interest in children such as his sister seems to be opportunistic and situational, rather than primary and chronic. Colloquially, opportunistic and situational pedophilia is still pedophilia. Whether Holden’s behavior steps over the line to child abuse would probably be controversial among professionals, and certainly it would be difficult and counterproductive to get a conviction in court. The same might be true of Salinger himself: by all accounts, he seems to have waited until his partners reached the age of 18 before engaging in intercourse.

Considering these facts, a critic might propose a possible alternative explanation that Salinger himself struggled with his sexual desires for very young women, adolescents and prepubescent children, and was working to stretch the bounds of acceptable behavior, without this aspect being any part of a grand over-arching conspiracy.

However, this is belied by Salinger’s affiliations with military intelligence organizations, as well as the other covert subtext of Catcher in the Rye, which is its homage to the Freemason initiation ritual.  We feel confident with our position that the relationship between Holden and his ten year old sister was created as an assault of the minds of Salinger’s teenage readers — just as the May 12, 1957 Life Magazine cover was an assault on them and  their parents. It was all intended to prepare the way  for the sexual and moral permissiveness of the sixties and beyond.

Citizens should read this analysis carefully as, if it is correct, it indicates that there has been a powerful organization with a sinister motivation operating within our most trusted institutions – an organization that may very well be still in existence and still wrestling for control.

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