The Catcher in the Rye

by: J. D. Salinger

Five Key Questions

Summary Five Key Questions

2) Does Mr. Antolini really make a pass at Holden?

In Chapter 24 Holden wakes up to Mr. Antolini touching his head, and he thinks his former teacher is trying to molest him. Although the reader has no definite way to tell whether Holden reads the situation correctly, it seems likely that Mr. Antolini is not making a pass at him. For one thing, Holden has consistently proven himself an unreliable judge of character. He frequently makes snap judgments that lack sufficient grounding in reality, particularly regarding issues related to sexuality. Holden has deep-seated anxiety about his sexuality, and he frequently deflects that anxiety by projecting homosexual desires onto other male characters. This may explain why Holden has such a sudden shift in his perception of Mr. Antolini. Nevertheless, it remains possible that Mr. Antolini’s caress does have a sexual undertone. If Holden is such a poor judge of character, there’s no reason his original impression of Mr. Antolini as a nonthreatening adult couldn’t be wrong. Furthermore, the normal boundary between student and teacher already seems blurry when Holden arrives at the Antolinis’ apartment late, after an alcohol-fueled party. But regardless of the truth about Mr. Antolini’s intentions, the panic attack Holden experiences after the incident is certainly real.