One of the more controversial characters in the novel, Mr. Antolini was Holden's favorite teacher at Elkton Hills. Holden admires and respects him because Antolini is not only intellectual and perceptive, but he has a heart. When James Castle committed suicide, it was Antolini who carried his bloody, broken body all the way to the infirmary. Now an English instructor at New York University, Antolini initially is a role model, a big brother (approximately the same age as D.B.), to Holden.
It is all the more confusing, then, for Holden to see that the drunken Antolini can be as boring a windbag as Spencer, and frightening as well. Holden may overreact to the situation, perhaps even misjudge it, when he awakens to find Antolini patting him on the head on the night he stays in the Antolinis' apartment, but it clearly is at least an uncomfortable and inappropriate situation. Holden is disillusioned. His short night at the Antolinis' has taught him another of life's painful lessons: His golden idol has feet of clay.