When his parents come home, Holden sneaks out to stay with Mr. Antolini , his former English teacher at Elkton Hills. Mr. Antolini tells Holden that he is headed for a serious fall and that he is the type who may die nobly for a highly unworthy cause. He quotes Wilhelm Stekel: “The mark of an 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 falls asleep on the couch. When he awakens, he finds Mr. Antolini with his hand on Holden’s head. Holden immediately interprets this as a homosexual advance, so he decides to leave. He tells Mr. Antolini that he has to get his bags from Grand Central Station but will return soon.
Salinger uses two main techniques with great efficiency. The first is to emphasize a contrast between Holden’s relatively casual description of his actions and the apparent desperation of the actions themselves. When Holden describes walking to the Central Park duck pond late at night, for instance, he casually mentions that he had icicles in his hair and worried about catching pneumonia, but he does not seem to consider it strange to walk outdoors with wet hair in freezing weather. It does seem strange to the reader, however, and Salinger uses that sense of strangeness, as well as Holden’s apparent obliviousness to it, to emphasize his mental imbalance. His other technique is to provide alternative viewpoints in the other characters’ responses to Holden’s behavior as guidelines. For instance, when Holden has his meltdown with Sally and tries to persuade her to flee society and live with him in a cabin, she repeatedly asks him to stop shouting. In his account of the scene, Holden claims he wasn’t shouting, but we believe Sally. Salinger uses her angry, fearful response to signal to the reader that Holden’s mental state is worse than he admits or acknowledges.