Discuss Holden’s experience with Mr. Antolini. How do Mr. Antolini’s words echo the advice that Holden received at the beginning of the novel from Mr. Spencer? What effect does it seem to have on Holden? Why does Holden later flee from Mr. Antolini’s apartment?
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In Chapter 24, we learn that Mr. Antolini had married an older woman who shared similar intellectual interests. When he arrives at his apartment, Holden finds Mr. Antolini in a bathrobe and slippers, drinking a highball. Holden and Mr. Antolini discuss Pencey, and Holden tells how he failed Oral Expression (debate). He tells Holden how he had lunch with his father, who told him that Holden was cutting classes and generally unprepared. He warns Holden that he is riding towards some kind of terrible fall. He says that it may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, he sits in some bar hating everyone who comes in looking as if he played football in college or hating people who use improper grammar. Furthermore, he tells Holden that the fall that he is riding for is a special and horrible kind, and that he can see Holden dying nobly for some highly unworthy cause.
He gives Holden a quote from the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel: "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." He finally tells Holden that once he gets past the things that annoy him, he will be able to find the kind of information that will be dear to his heart. Holden goes to sleep, and wakes up to find Mr. Antolini's hand on his head. He tells Holden that he is "simply sitting here, admiring" but Holden interrupts him, gets dressed and leaves, claiming that he has to get his bags from Grand Central Station and will be back soon.
In Chapter 24, Mr. Antolini is the third consecutive person whom Holden encounters who forces him to confront his difficulties. Like both Carl Luce and Phoebe, Mr. Antolini senses that Holden suffers from serious problems, and definitively tells him that he is headed for a fall. However, where Mr. Antolini departs from the previous two confrontations is that he grasps the seriousness of the situation. His observation that Holden will end up having contempt for nearly everyone he meets has been made in different forms by others, yet only Mr. Antolini senses the mortal seriousness of the situation. When he quotes Wilhelm Stekel, he implies that he expects Holden to commit suicide as a form of foolish martyrdom.
Mr. Antolini is perhaps the only adult in the story whom Holden can trust and respect; Holden even does not derisively call him “old” as he does with other adults, instead referring to him by his proper title. However, like all other adults in the story, Holden feels that Mr. Antolini betrays his trust. When Holden awakens to find Mr. Antolini touching his head, he immediately concludes the worst, suspecting him of "flitty" behavior. However, Holden is a notoriously unreliable narrator, coming to Mr. Antolini's apartment inherently suspicious of all adults and perhaps still drunk from the evening's escapades.