The Catcher in the Rye

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The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park Symbol Analysis

The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park Symbol Icon
Holden's fixation on the ducks is also a symbol of his struggle with change and growing up. He wants things to stay the same, but the ducks prove that one must adapt to the environment, that one has to change in order to survive. At the same time, the ducks offer hope: though they disappear each winter, they always reappear.

The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park Quotes in The Catcher in the Rye

The The Catcher in the Rye quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Phoniness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Little, Brown edition of The Catcher in the Rye published in 2001.
Chapter 9 Quotes
You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?
Related Characters: Holden Caulfield (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

Holden asks his cab driver about the Central Park ducks. Though the question is earnest, the driver does not take him seriously.

On the surface, Holden’s question seems ridiculous, or even sarcastic, thus showing that his occasional earnest statements are rebuffed by a society that expects social acts to be relatively artificial. Here, we get a sense of why Holden sees others as phony—for they demand such a practiced and coded type of social interaction that they do not have direct and meaningful conversations. The inability of a cab driver to answer this straightforward question speaks to such a disconnect.

More specifically, the ducks are a symbol for a helpless animal that has been abandoned in the middle of winter. That Holden wonders about their winter lodgings demonstrates his attention to beings that have been abandoned—and implies that he he has a similar worry for himself. In a sense, Holden is just like the ducks: uncertain of where to go now that he has entered a harsh adult world.

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The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park Symbol Timeline in The Catcher in the Rye

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Ducks in the Lagoon in Central Park appears in The Catcher in the Rye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Eventually, Holden begins to tune out, and wonders to himself where the ducks in the Central Park lagoon go during winter. (full context)
Chapter 9
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...a cab to the Edmont Hotel. On the way, he asks the driver where the ducks in the Central Park lagoon go in the winter, but the driver thinks he's joking... (full context)
Chapter 12
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...up a conversation with his cab driver, who's named Horwitz, then finally asks about the ducks in the Central park lagoon. Horwitz becomes angry at this stupid question. Horwitz shouts that... (full context)
Chapter 20
Phoniness Theme Icon
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
Holden walks to Central Park to check on the ducks in the lagoon. During the walk, Holden drops the record he bought for Phoebe and... (full context)