A Special Kind of Fall

My favorite quote from The Catcher in the Rye (1951) is a psychological assessment of Holden Caulfield by his teacher, Mr. Antolini. ┬áMr. Antolini thinks Holden is heading for “a special kind of fall”:

I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don’t honestly know what kind . . . . Are you listening to me? . . . It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college . . . . Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. This fall I think you’re riding for — it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave up before they even got started.

–Mr. Antolini