The Catcher in the Rye Analysis of Chunk 9 (Chapter 24)
When Holden is explaining to Mr. Antolini why he left Pencey, he gives the example of his Oral Expression class, where students are taught not to digress. The scene is intended as another example of how modern society restricts conversation. "[The speech] didn't have to do with the farm-I admit it-but it was nice" Holden comments, implying that not everything has to be unified and simplified.
Mr. Antolini is intended as a foil to Phoebe. Unlike her, he is not a child and the wisdom he possesses is not a child's blunt observations. He understands Holden like Phoebe can't-Phoebe can only make Holden understand himself. Because of his experience, he is capable of realizing that Holden's sickness with human behavior is not an oddity to be eliminated so much as an idea which needs to be developed maturely.
Mr. Antolini's speech regarding the "terrible, terrible fall" to which Holden is headed is highly symbolic. The "fall" is intended to evoke the fall that Holden described earlier-that of children maturing. But here, the fall Mr. Antolini describes is one of Holden's waking up suddenly at thirty years old, and realizing what a waste he's made of life. In other words, the here the fall is one of largely having never grown up-the exact opposite of the one Holden describes. The implication is that Holden is misguided in his dream of being the catcher in the rye.
The question and purpose of Mr. Antolini's sexuality is perhaps one of the most hotly discussed subjects about the book. Most critics agree that Mr. Antolini is indeed homosexual, but if so, the question is why? One answer assumes that the effect of Mr. Antolini's being "a flit" is more or less the diminished value of his (rather good) advice in Holden's mind. The question which Salinger forces us to ask is "Would Holden have been better off not knowing?" In other words, would it have been better for Mr. Antolini to be a phony, concealing his attraction to Holden? Holden's cry for integrity and being true to yourself clearly has a flip side.