I just watched this John Green video (link above) interpreting The Catcher in the Rye. It has some pretty good analysis. A little on the frenetic side, but decent overall given how much is wedged into the narrow timeframe.
But I've got an issue with describing the apartment scene with Mr. Antolini as a sexual come-on. It's irritating to think that a man can't pat a kid on the head without having it blown out of proportion. A woman can stroke a boy's hair and it's fine. But let a man breathe on a kid and the world comes down on him. That's rotten. Men care about children, and they can be just as loving and nurturing as a woman. More than many that I've seen, short of breast feeding, and plenty of women don't breastfeed.
I think Holden's reaction was way over the top. We know how unreliable he is.
In that scene, Holden pushed away the only person who had recognized his panic, who expressed empathy and concern and gave him great advice and a place to crash.
Remember, it was Antolini who was there when James Castle committed suicide at another prep school Holden attended before Pencey. Antolini covered the bloody corpse with his coat and carried it away, proof that he was a compassionate man. Patting Holden on the head is hardly a gay pass when he knew Holden as well as he did. Like a doofus, Holden overreacts and leaves.
What I'm saying to the guy who made the video is: don't blame Antolini for Holden's touchiness.
Nevertheless, Holden took it the way he did and rejected a valid and valuable adult source of solace and consolation, not to mention world class advice. There's a lesson in this: Sometimes we misinterpret good intentions out of mistrust and are the worse for it.
The teenage years are when we begin questioning or rejecting our parents' world view and look for answers outside the family and extended family circle of comfort and trust. They've lied to us about Santa Claus and the Boogey Man; what else have they been lying about? We've begun noticing their flaws and started looking elsewhere for answers. We want to be prepared for life, for making our own decisions. The hypocrisy (phoniness) within our formerly godlike inner circle of family has discredited them. Who can we trust? Where are the answers?
And so we pick up books like Lord of the Flies, Dianetics, Atlas Shrugged and Hunger Games.
This teenage crisis period of searching is brilliantly rendered by Salinger in the character of Holden Caulfield.
Flash forward in the novel to where Holden is in the rest home, reflecting on Antolini's quote of 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. Holden kept Antolini's handwritten quote. It's doubtful that he would have kept it if he hadn't resolved his concerns about Antolini.
So what if someone is gay? That doesn't mean he/she's a pedophile or that you can't trust what he/she says. Crapolla! Holden would say. One of my best teachers was overtly effeminate and he never made a pass at anyone that I'm aware of.
I like to think that Salinger would be a lot like Mr. Antolini.
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