What do the ducks symbolize in “The Catcher in the Rye”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In "The Catcher in the Rye," the ducks in Central Park represent Holden's fear of change and uncertainty. The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, constantly wonders where the ducks go when the pond freezes over. The ducks, like Holden, are lost and displaced. The ducks' disappearance represents Holden's fear of the unknown and his inability to cope with change. The symbolism of the ducks provides insight into Holden's character and his struggle to deal with the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Detailed answer:

In J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," the ducks that Holden Caulfield is concerned about throughout the book are a symbol of his own anxiety and fear of change. The ducks represent Holden's feeling of being lost and his fear of not being able to adapt to the changing world around him. He worries about where the ducks go during the winter when the pond freezes over, just as he worries about his own uncertain future.

Holden's fixation on the ducks is also a manifestation of his desire to save others from the harsh realities of the world. He wants to be the "catcher in the rye," a figure who saves children from falling off the edge of a cliff and into the adult world. This desire stems from his own trauma and pain, and his inability to come to terms with the loss of his younger brother Allie.

Furthermore, the ducks can be interpreted as a metaphor for the novel's central theme of innocence and the loss of innocence. The ducks are a symbol of the fleeting innocence that is lost as one grows older and faces the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood. Holden, in his own way, is trying to hold onto his own innocence and protect others from losing theirs.

Overall, the ducks in "The Catcher in the Rye" are a powerful symbol that represents Holden's fear of change, his desire to save others from the harsh realities of the world, and the novel's central theme of innocence and the loss of innocence.

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