In The Catcher in the Rye, what does Holden mean when he says that Mr. Antolini is more witty than intellectual?

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Wit is defined as a clever expression with a keen perception that usually invokes laughter or profound thought. Sometimes people confuse wit with sarcasm, but wit is based on a perceived truth that those included in the practice can understand. In today's language, students might also connect wit with "roasting" someone. But on an academic level, wit is based on ideas cleverly expressed intellectually.

Mr. Antolini is a former teacher of Holden's from his time at Elkton Hills. Holden describes him as follows:

". . . after I left Elkton Hills Mr. Antolini came up to our house for dinner quite frequently to find out how I was getting along. He wasn't married then. . . but they seemed to get along quite well. For one thing, they were both very intellectual, especially Mr. Antolini, except that he was more witty than intellectual when you were with him" (180-181).

This passage suggests that Mr. Antolini must be a good teacher, but when he gets around Holden, and possibly with other students, he can show off that intelligence with witty comments that invoke laughter. An example of Mr. Antolini's wit comes out when Holden gets to his teacher's apartment and first sits down with the couple:

"'Excuse the appearance of the place . . . We've been entertaining some Buffalo friends of Mrs. Antolini's. . . Some buffaloes, as a matter of fact.'

I laughed" (182).

Mr. Antolini makes Holden feel a little better by making him laugh, but he later tells him that he had lunch with his father and that they are concerned about him. This shows that even though Mr. Antolini can perceive the fun in life, he is also talented enough to perceive the serious things in life. He tries to help Holden as best he can by giving him good advice and not just by joking around.

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