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What is significant about the moment when Phoebe remarks to Holden, “You don't like anything that's happening”?

What observation is Phoebe making about her brother, and how does her impression of his behavior reflect the overarching ideas and/or thematic content that have developed over the course of the story?


When Phoebe remarks aloud that Holden “doesn't like anything,” she demarcates the part of her conversation with Holden in which she starts to sound like the adult and he, the child. She is trying to help Holden realize his immaturity and also draws attention to Holden's conflict that he is suspended between childhood and adulthood.


Until Phoebe's remark, it had not occurred to Holden that his cynical behavior would have a detrimental effect on Phoebe. His realization, both that Phoebe looks up to him and that his behavior affects the people around him who are exposed to it, is particularly significant; understanding his relationship with Phoebe gives him a sense of purpose, however slight. His understanding that he does not live in a vacuum is a sign of maturation.


Phoebe confronts Holden with information about himself that he would rather not acknowledge. Phoebe forces Holden to hear this truth that “he doesn't like anything;” this is significant because until Phoebe's intervention, Holden had not had to face his problems and therefore could continue his ongoing denial and self-deception.


Phoebe's remark to Holden is important because he knows that her statement is both true and an astute observation. That aside, the true significance of Holden hearing his sister's comment is that he is reminded of how smart and sophisticated Phoebe is and he realizes that she is not the child he still imagines in his head. Phoebe's remark is the beginning of Holden's acceptance that childhood is finite and growing up is inevitable.


Phoebe's comment that Holden does not like anything reminds him of the deep spiral he has been in since the death of his younger brother; her words cause him to lash out and retreat even deeper into his cocoon of isolation.

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