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"Oh, I have a few qualms, all right. Sure. . . but not too many. Not yet, anyway. I guess it hasn't really hit me yet. It takes things a while to hit me. All I'm doing right now is thinking about going home Wednesday. I'm a moron."
"Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy?"
"Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure. Sure, I do." I thought about it for a minute. "But not too much, I guess. Not too much, I guess."
"You will," old Spencer said. "You will, boy. You will when it's too late." (2.64-67)
Compare this conversation with Spencer to Holden's later conversation with Mr. Antolini. There seems to be some structural significance to these two conversations being placed – almost like bookends – around the rest of the text. Both men refer to some sort of crisis or downfall that Holden is surely approaching. Both talk (if somewhat indirectly here) about the importance of education. Both possess a physicality that bothers Holden – the white, hairless legs of Mr. Spencer and the fact that Mr. Antolini touches Holden while he's sleeping. How has Holden changed, however, in between these two instances? Both men say sort of the same thing, but do they say it to the same Holden?
"You ought to go to a boys' school sometime. Try it sometime," I said. "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques." (17. 46)
Here is some more insight into Holden's reasons for disliking formal education – its end goal. In his mind, all education intends to do is make people rich. This, he believes, is a useless goal.
"Here's what he said: '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.'" (24.56)
This is one piece of wisdom Mr. Antolini has to offer Holden. Many people say this means he expects Holden to commit suicide. It's also interesting to look at this from Holden's perspective, regardless of Mr. Antolini's intent. Think about Holden's "cause" – what does he want to do? He wants to be the catcher in the rye. He wants to stop children from running off the edge of a cliff. As you'll find in our other lengthy discussions of the title and Holden's obsession with protecting the innocence if youth, this is somewhat of a lost cause. Everyone grows up, reads the "fuck you"s that have written on walls, and has to face the adult world of cars and martinis and sex. Could Holden "die nobly" for this cause? In a way. He could turn himself off from the rest of the [adult] world that really he should be interacting with, living in. This would be a sort of "death," and arguably a noble one.