In chapter 24, Holden goes to Mr. Antolini's place to stay for the night. He crashes on the couch, and suddenly is woken up by Mr. Antolini stroking his (Holden's) hair while he sleeps. There are, then, two passages that caught my eye:

I know more damn perverts, at schools and all, than anybody you ever met, and they're always being perverty when I'm around.


When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kind of stuff's happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can't stand it.

Now, throughout the whole book, I'd been getting the impression that Holden was a depressed individual — as in, actually clinically depressed, not just that "that kind of stuff makes me depressed" kinda talk he's always having — but was attributing it to his little brother Allie's death.

Then this happens, right near the end of the book, and it seems like it connects a few more things: his apparent depression, why he's sexually awkward (see the scene with the prostitute, and how he describes how "something always happens" when he's about to lose his virginity), why he seems to hate adults a lot more than children and younger folks... and why he wants to protect the children as "the catcher in the rye," as he describes to Phoebe in chapter 22.

Furthermore, Holden seems to actually get physically sick after the interaction with Mr. Antolini, mentioning he passed out, and almost vomited several times when he felt like laughing. This bit would suggest, I believe, a physical reaction to what might be, to some degree, repressed memories of past abuse.

Was Holden in fact molested as a child? Is there any other sort of evidence that I'm overlooking here? Perhaps from the book itself, or an earlier draft, or a note from the author? Or, given the many similarities between the narrative in The Catcher in the Rye and Salinger's early life (see here and here), is it possible that Salinger himself was molested as a child?

  • You are placing way too much emphasis on "definitive" proof. People do not always communicate directly, and is not nessessary for people to communicate directly to communicate. Interpreting subtext is a valid way of reading and interpreting literature. It is possible to put together a compelling argument without direct proof: you have the start of one at the beginning of this question. – user111 Jan 4 '18 at 20:27
  • with regards to authorial intent being definitive: authors lie about or misrepresent their books all the time (here is a particularly blantent example: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). A Note from am author is often the opposite of definitive proof. You would do well to peruse some of the questions on authorial intent on this site. – user111 Jan 4 '18 at 20:31
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    @Hamlet Your comment would be more helpful with actual links to the questions about authorial intent on this site :-) For example, How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis? and The author of a literary work disagrees with critics about meaning—who's right? – Rand al'Thor Jan 4 '18 at 20:40
  • I'm not too tied to "definitive" here, @Hamlet: I'm satisfied with your edit :) – JNat Jan 5 '18 at 16:02

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