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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger
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Is Mr. Antolini sexual to Holden?

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In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield feels that Mr. Antolini is one of the few adults who are not “phonies” like pretty much everyone else. As he needs advice when he gets expelled and does not want to talk with his own parents, he seeks out the...

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In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield feels that Mr. Antolini is one of the few adults who are not “phonies” like pretty much everyone else. As he needs advice when he gets expelled and does not want to talk with his own parents, he seeks out the former teacher at his apartment, which is near Holden’s own home. Conversing with Mr. Antolini, whose wife brings them coffee, Holden listens to him lecture about making decisions and applying himself. Antolini is drinking a lot. As it gets late, Holden is clearly exhausted and he invites him to spend the night.

J. D. Salinger does not provide any indication that Holden previously had a sexual relationship; although Holden writes about other people’s “perverty” behavior, there are no specific actions mentioned. Holden does not even hint that Mr. Antolini might have carried out sexual misconduct toward him in the past. While Holden is sleeping on the living room couch, he is suddenly awakened by a touch, which disturbs him.

I felt something on my head, some guy’s hand. Boy it really scared hell out of me. What it was, was Mr. Antolini’s hand. What he was doing was, he was sitting on the floor right next to the couch… and he was sort of petting me or patting me on my head. . . .

“What the hellya doing?” I said.

That is the extent of the contact, but Holden immediately assumes that he had a sexual intent. He gets up and starts dressing, saying he has to leave. He does not make these comments to Antolini, but in his narrative, he reflects,

I know more damn perverts, at school and all, than anybody you ever met, and they’re always being perverty when I’m around.

After he leaves the apartment, he begins to sweat.

When something pervert 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.

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