Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 24

By J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 24

  • Holden heads for Mr. Antolini's house. He used to see the guy a lot after he left Elkton Hills. Once Mr. Antolini got married, the three of them used to play tennis together.
  • Mrs. Antolini is "about sixty years older than Mr. Antolini" (which we take with a grain of salt, as Holden is prone to exaggeration) and apparently has a lot of money.
  • A cab ride later, Mr. Antolini opens the door, dressed in a bathrobe, wearing slippers, and holding a highball in his hand.
  • Mrs. Antolini is out in the kitchen; Holden notes that they're never both in the same room at the same time. (Hmm.)
  • Holden has a cigarette with Mr. Antolini, noting (to us) that he still feels rather dizzy (the reasoning behind his taking a cab instead of walking).
  • Mr. Antolini wants to know all about Holden's classes. He says he passed English, but flunked Oral Expression because you were supposed to avoid digressions and Holden, if you hadn't noticed by now, is quite the fan of a good digression.
  • He feels like that's when people tell you the really good stuff—by accident.
  • But Mr. Antolini counters with the point that there is a time and a place for everything. If someone starts telling you about one topic, they should stick to that, and tell you whatever the digression is later.
  • Eh. You never know what's most interesting, what it really is that you need to talk about, until you get going, right?
  • Mrs. Antolini finally comes in from the kitchen with coffee for everyone, looking old and quite unattractive (curlers in her hair and all).
  • She heads off to bed; Mr. Antolini gives her a kiss, which Holden says they do quite frequently in public. (Hmm again.)
  • Mr. Antolini keeps on drinking, and then tells Holden that he had lunch with his (Holden's) dad a few weeks ago. They're both worried about him.
  • Hm, we feel a lecture coming on.
  • We were right. Mr. Antolini worries that Holden will end up thirty years old and hating everyone.
  • Surprisingly (to us), Holden claims that he really doesn't hate that many people, or at least he only hates them for a little while.
  • Oh, well, in that case …
  • But Mr. Antolini Holden is in for some kind of "fall"—a "special" and "horrible" fall. He worries that Holden will "die nobly" for an "unworthy cause."
  • Hmm, sounds like we're getting into tragedy territory here, doesn't it?
  • He hands Holden a quote he's written down from a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel, which reads: "The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."
  • Holden thanks him and puts it in his pocket, but to be honest he'd rather be sleeping off his headache than playing quotable quotes with this guy.
  • Mr. Antolini argues that once Holden finds what he's passionate about, he'll be able to allow himself to be in love with knowledge and just forget about the Oral Expression classes that at the moment irritate him to no end.
  • Ugh, adults can be so annoying sometimes.
  • Then he gets all poetic about how men have felt exactly this way before, but when people can teach and learn from one another, it's a "beautiful reciprocal arrangement," etc., etc.
  • He says it's not that you need to be educated to change the world, but that men who are brilliant and creative and also educated tend to be more valuable than those who are merely brilliant and creative.
  • Basically, he's just trying to convince Holden that school is cool.
  • After Holden yawns (come on, he has been awake for the last 24 hours), the two of them make up the couch for Holden to sleep on, with a few more hints that Mr. Antolini sure is drinking a lot.
  • Since he doesn't have any pajamas, Holden just gets under the covers in his shorts, i.e., underwear.
  • And then something happened to him that he doesn't like to talk about.
  • He wakes up when he feels someone's hand on his head—Mr. Antolini is sitting next to the couch (in the dark) and sort of petting Holden's head.
  • It terrifies Holden, who jumps up with a "What the hellya doing?"
  • Mr. Antolini responds that he's just "sitting here, admiring—"
  • Nope. Holden is having none of it. Even though Mr. Antolini acts very casual about the whole thing, Holden grabs up all his stuff and insists that he's got to go because he left all his bags at the station (in the locker, remember?) and he has to go get them back.
  • As he's leaving, Mr. Antolini tells him he's "a very, very strange boy," which Holden sees right through.
  • Holden ends the chapter telling us, "When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kind of stuff's happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can't stand it."
  • Hm. This sheds some light on the subject.

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