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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What incident in chapter 24 of The Catcher in the Rye causes Holden to leave the apartment?

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Holden is desperate to find a consistency in the relationships around him as he becomes increasingly focused on the 'phoniness' he sees everywhere. Mr Antolini has been known to Holden and his family for some time. It is therefore disturbing for Holden’s illusions of comfort and support from Mr Antolini to be questioned.

Mr Antolini's actions are indeed strange and his stroking of Holden’s hair is disturbing, but equally his advice to Holden is as repellent as his actions. Holden is told that he should try to conform to societal norms.  Mr Antolini’s homosexual motives remain questionable as we only see the events through the eyes of Holden, the unreliable narrator. The key point is that Holden perceives the incident as a breach of trust and a threat to his safety.

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In this chapter, Holden has gone to the home of Mr. Antolini, his old English teacher from one of the schools he got thrown out of.  He needs a place to stay and Antolini has offerred before.

After Holden goes to bed and is asleep, he wakes up to find that Mr. Antolini is sitting on the bed and stroking Holden's head.  This makes him freak out and leave the apartment.

It is certainly implied that Antolini is gay.  He is married to an older woman who is not all that good looking.  He calls Holden "handsome."

So, Holden certainly assumes he's gay.  And since this is told from Holden's perspective, it looks that way to me too.  But it could be that Holden is just phobic and Antolini was just feeling sorry for him.

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