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Commentary on The Catcher In The Rye Essay


Assignment 1: Q1. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

After studying Holdens actions throughout the novel The Catcher in the Rye, I believe he is incorrect in forming the belief that Mr. Antolini betrayed him. Holden jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Antolini is a pervert based on an incident where he wakes up in the middle of the night to find his old English teacher patting him on the head. This gesture, which appears perfectly platonic and fatherly, leads him to feel betrayed by one of the few people that he liked and trusted. It is clear that Holden misinterprets Mr Antolinis action because of a number of factors, including his fascination with sex, his mistrusting, judgemental nature, the lack of affection in his life, his struggle with adolescence and his cynical outlook on adult life.

Mr Antolini is portrayed as fatherly. He is an old family friend and seems to have been part of Holdens childhood. We are informed that he came to the Caulfield house quite frequently for dinner and that only a few days before, he had lunch with Holdens father. During this meeting, they discussed Holdens academic failure and his unwillingness to conform to society and apply himself to his studies. Antolini has a paternal attitude towards Holden. He seems genuinely concerned about the boy and tries to help him realise that his irresponsible behaviour is spiralling out of control. He tells him he is headed for a fall and the man falling isnt permitted to feel or hear himself hit the bottom.(Chapter 24, The Catcher in the Rye) He offers advice:

The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one. (Chapter 24, The Catcher in the Rye)

The visit is relaxed and friendly. He doesnt question Holden too much. He gives the impression of being easy-going, laidback and affectionate. Holden seems reasonably fond of him, describing him as witty and intellectual. However, when the incident occurs, Holden immediately assumes the pat on the head has sexual undertones.

The simplest explanation for what has occurred is that it is a display of affection and concern from a man who has watched Holden grow up and is distressed to see him throw away his future. It is worthwhile to take into account that Mr Antolini had been drinking heavily earlier. The alcohol may have lowered his inhibitions, resulting in him acting more affectionately than he would if he was sober. While it is true that he may have violated Holdens privacy in making the gesture but there is barely any evidence to suggest that he is making a sexual overture.

Judging from his previous actions and observations, it is safe to assume that Holden is fascinated by sex, regarding it with a mixture of curiosity and distrust. He sees everyone in a sexual light, something that may contribute towards his impulsive judgement of Mr. Antolini. This is clearly shown when he meets Ernest Morrows mother on the train: She had quite a lot of sex appeal. He is even attracted to a woman who is old enough to be his mother.

Holden is a teenager trying to come to terms with adolescence and it is clear that most of the time his thoughts are clouded by a swirling storm of sexual emotions. When his sexual desires become stronger he even rings a woman who has a reputation for being easy- Faith Cavendish. His mood swings are erratic and unpredictable. One moment he feels sexual attraction for every female in sight and the next, he is uninterested. We see this when he meets the prostitute, Sunny. Sexual timorousness results in him trying to strike up conversation with her. Perhaps it is because he is so obsessed with sex that he feels everyone else, including Mr Antolini, is constantly thinking about it too. Holden believes that sex should mean more than just the physical act of making love and thinks it should only be between people who love and respect each other. However, his surging sexual desires lead him to feel attracted to girls like Sunny and Sally; a fact that deeply perturbs him because he admits he doesnt even like them. He has a romantic idealistic notion of what making love should be like and realises that sex loses its allure when people who feel nothing towards each other sleep together: I know its supposed to be physical and spiritual, and artistic and all. But what I mean is, you cant do it with everybodyand make it come out that way.( Chapter 19) He sums up his approach towards sex when he says: sex is something I just dont understand. I swear to god I dont. ( Chapter 9, page 56)

The Catcher in the Rye gives us a clear portrayal of teenage angst and sexuality. Holden is constantly thinking about sex and therefore, it comes as no surprise that when Mr Antolini displays affection towards him he automatically assumes that his old English




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