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The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 24

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 24 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 24 | Summary



Holden catches a cab to the Antolinis' apartment, where his teacher greets him, drink in hand. Holden accepts a cigarette and, feeling dizzy, evades Mr. Antolini's questions about why he flunked out. He discusses one class he failed, Oral Expression. Holden says that the teacher failed anyone whose speech wandered off topic. Holden explains that he prefers digressions to main points.

Mr. Antolini hears Holden's concerns and then speaks of education not as training for conformity to social expectations or work demands but as a way to learn how one thinks. Holden listens but can't stop yawning, so they agree to talk more in the morning. Holden sleeps deeply on the couch until he wakes in a panic. Mr. Antolini, seated on the floor in the dark by him, is patting his head, a gesture Holden interprets at homoerotic. Despite Mr. Antolini's insistence that he is just concerned about Holden, Holden rushes out, supposedly to get his suitcases from the station. Mr. Antolini follows him into the hall to tell him that the door will be unlocked so that he can come back. After what seems an eternity, the elevator arrives, and Holden, shaking and sweating, leaves. He complains that "pervert stuff" has happened to him before and it upsets him.


Regardless of how readers interpret Mr. Antolini's gesture, his advice to Holden matters. Only in this chapter does an adult who is not "phony" speak at length in a way that Holden can bear to hear. Mr. Antolini speaks of the importance of reading what thoughtful, humble people have written and of education as a way to take the "true measurements" of one's mind. Mr. Antolini is a flawed character, but his concern for Holden is genuine. He perceives that Holden has reached a point of crisis and is teetering on a precipice. He worries that Holden will either become trapped in a boring job that wastes his intellect or that he will die for an unworthy cause.

Mr. Antolini writes down a quote by Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel: "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." In essence, Mr. Antolini tells Holden what Stradlater, Luce, and Phoebe have shown him by example: it's possible to mature into an adult whose life has meaning and purpose. Holden's discontent and anxiety are not crazy but signs of his yearning for purpose. How much of this the exhausted, sick Holden grasps is not clear, but this conversation stays in his mind after he flees the apartment.

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