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Catcher in the Rye: Holden’s Family

Updated on May 14, 2015

Holdens various family members have both positively and negatively affected his life at different times.

Allie Caulfield

  • Died of Leukemia
    • July 18th, 1946
    • 11 years
  • Was very nice, intelligent, had red hair, left handed
  • Had a baseball mitt with green ink
  • Praised by his teachers
  • When Holden gets upset, he looks towards his dead brother just to talk.
  • Allie his younger brother was full of innocence. Holden viewed him as an almost perfect person; really nice, smart etc.
    • Holden loved everything about him.

But it wasn’t just that he was most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest, in a lot of ways. He never got mad at anybody

What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get depressed

Allie’s Death

  • Allie was everything to him.
    • Holden lost it when Allie died.
      • Holden went into the garage and punched all the windows out.
      • He also slept in the garage that night.
  • His parents did not help Holden come back from breakdown.

Phoebe Caulfield

  • She loves to skate and dance
  • Is also intelligent, emotional, funny, intuitive, also has red hair
  • Knows what you are talking about.
  • Convinces Holden to stay and not run away.

Phoebe Quotes

  • “There was this record I wanted to get for Phoebe, called ‘Little Shirley Beans’. It was a very hard record to get” (149).
    • This shows that Holden really cares for her, and wants to make her happy.
    • And when Holden broke the record he felt really bad, and was very upset.
      • Phoebe didn’t really care that it was broken, she thought it was sweet that he wanted to get her something.
  • “She wrote me this letter. I didn’t get to answer it, though. It was all about this play she was in in school. She told me not to make any dates or anything for Friday so that I could come see it” (210).
    • This also shows that not only he cares for her but that she cares for him, and wants him in her life.

Sibling Relationship

  • Sibling relationships can become more intense when parental care is emotionally unfulfilled or unavailable.
    • The bond can either be helpful or harmful to the children's relationship
      • This depends on the attitudes and behaviors of the parents and the personalities of the children
  • In Holden’s case Phoebe and his relationship with her was intensified and the bond was helpful.

D.B. Caulfield

  • In the Army
  • Wrote the “Secret Goldfish”
  • A screenwriter in Hollywood
  • Holden feels that D.B. has sacrificed his writing for money.

D.B Quotes

  • “That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every weekend. He’s going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe” (1).
    • When Holden is in the psych ward, his brother comes to see him. They had a good relationship
  • “My brother gave me a book by Ring Lardner for my birthday, just before I went to Pencey, it had these very funny, crazy plays in it” (25).
    • Even though he wasn’t there he was still able to connect with Holden, and know what kind of things Holden likes. Unlike their mother who doesn’t listen.

Mental Hospital

  • D.B. is the only one to visit Holden while he is in the mental hospital. At the beginning of the book it says that his brother visits him almost every weekend.
  • D.B. accepted the fact that his brother had a mental illness
    • This helps both D.B. and Holden.

Holden’s Mother

  • His mother smokes
  • Over-emotional
  • Not caring
  • Holden feels kind of bad to disappoint her

Mother Quotes

  • “My mother’s hysterical. She’s not too bad when she gets something thoroughly digested, though” (66).

    • Shows that she is a little over-emotional, making Holden want to lie/ deceive her to avoid this behavior from her.

  • “She bought me the wrong kind of skates--I wanted racing skates and she bought me hockey--but it made me sad anyway” (67).
    • Holden’s mother tries to be a good parent by doing things to show she cares, but she’s not really listening to Holden.


  • Kids are very impressionable- this means that kids are easily influenced by things
    • Either by their parents or other people.
    • Though it can be a positive impression, there are negative ones.
      • Holden’s case his mother negatively influenced him

Nature vs. Nurture

  • Good supporting parent and good environment will help with the development of the child

Holden’s Father

  • Corporate lawyer
  • Always away for work
    • Travels

Father Quotes

  • “Daddy’s going to kill you. I don’t give a damn if he does” (173).
  • Phoebe is telling Holden that their dad is going to kill him because he got kicked out of school again.
  • It shows that Holden actually believes that his dad will kill him.
    • It proves that they do not have a good relationship.
  • “What time is it? They won’t be home till very late, mother said. They went to a party Norwalk, Connecticut” (210-11).
    • Shows that both parents are not responsible, leaving Phoebe home alone at night.
    • Holden did not really react how a “normal” brother would to their 10 year old sister being home alone at night, because he is used to this kind of behavior from his parents.

Bad Parenting

  • Boarding school has its disadvantages
    • Contributes to relational dysfunction in adulthood The child grows to be antisocial/ struggle with emotions


  • “I have this grandmother that’s quite lavish with her dough. She doesn’t have all her marbles anymore—she’s old as hell—and she keeps sending me money for my birthday about four times a year” (67).
    • Though his grandmother was only mentioned once, you can sort of blame her for all the things Holden can do. Because without the money from her he would have never been able to run away to New York.


  • Phoebe, Allie, and D.B. have positively influenced on his life.
  • While his parents and grandmothers have negatively impacted on his life.


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