Catcher in the Rye


November 3, 2003


“I don’t want to scare you,” he said, “but I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause.” He gave me a funny look. “If I write something down for you, will you read it carefully? And keep it?”


I picked these five lines of text to analyze because I believe that these lines press the same issue that is forced on Holden from all of the other characters of the book. Every character in the story is hung up on Holden doing well in life. They do not understand that he cannot function in an environment where he is surrounded by people he feels negatively towards. However, he believes that everyone, except for his deceased brother and little sister, is a “phony” and that he cannot interact with them. Therefore it is impossible for him to carry out tasks, let alone excel at them, where he is not comfortable.


Many times throughout the novel, Holden has conversations with people who
try to console him and help him see the light in achievement. And, as shown in this passage, he misses the deep meaning that the speaker is trying to convey for a shallow interpretation that Holden makes. This is odd because as we are told the story from Holden, he makes very mature criticisms on society. However, when another party is introduced, Holden acts very immaturely. When Holden has a conversation with Mr. Antolini it is obvious that people care about his well being, but Holden does not realize this. Holden takes others’ advice only at face value; feeling that they want to control his life or his actions, that they are fueled by superficial or impure ambitions,
that he wants no part in. He is not able to look beyond his disillusions towards society to respect any opinion other than his own.


These five lines of text are taken from the conversation that Holden has with his English Professor from Elkton Hills, the second to last school that he attended. Mr. Antolini is a very intellectual man, one of the reasons that he is regarded so highly by Holden. Mr. Antolini has been around Holden for a long time and is also well acquainted with Holden’s family. It is appropriate for Mr. Antolini is able to give Holden some insight on life, as he does in the conversation that leads to the quote above.


As an undeniably linked party, Mr. Antolini notices that Holden is lost and does not know what direction he should continue in. He believes that Holden is mature for his age, but is also still very naïve as he is only sixteen. The main concern that Mr. Antolini has is that he does not want Holden to trust too much in his mature behavior so that he is blind to his naïve side. He feels that it is important for Holden to grow up more before he makes some of the irrational, possibly consequential, choices.


Mr. Antolini recognizes Holden’s potential for hurting himself and the others close to him while trying to make a meaningful judgment of the world. Committing suicide is an act that many use to let others know that the world is so corrupt that it is not even worth living in, and this is what Holden believes he feels. But Holden is a sixteen year old boy, with limited experience in the world outside of private college preparatory schools. I believe that Mr. Antolini is also trying to convey that if he can make it through life thus far, it is really not that bad of a place and Holden has no valid reason to think he cannot make it through the rest.


In this conversation that the two have, three main ideas are presented. Holden does not really listen to what Mr. Antolini has to say because of the almost condescending way that Mr. Antolini talks to Holden, which removes Holden’s mind from the conversation and back on the thoughts of phonies. Mr. Antolini gives a deep criticism on Holden’s life, but all Holden can come away with is the facial expression that Mr. Antolini makes. This is definitely not the interpretation that Mr.