The Catcher in the Rye

Why is Mr. Antolini a teacher who Holden trust? Give specific examples.


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Holden narrates that Mr. Antolini was his English teacher at Elkton Hills and was the person who carried James Castle to the infirmary. When Holden visits Mr. Antolini in Chapter 24, he 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.

It seems questionable that Mr. Antolini had any malicious intent, yet Holden suspects the worst. Here is Holden's 'last adult refuge in a disintegrating world,' and yet once again Holden must escape from a situation to avoid any sort of difficult confrontation (Graham 25). Holden can now dismiss Mr. Antolini's advice to him, for he can now perceive this once-respected teacher as a predator. At the same time, if Mr. Antolini was making advances on Holden, then it's clear that perhaps Holden is right about the world - that it's incapable of offering true love, only phony attempts at connection coupled with arbitrary pain.