In The Catcher in the Rye J.D Salinger utilizes Holden’s recurring mentions of the ducks in Central park to expose the childish curiosity and authentic side to Holden’s routinely blunt and overwhelmingly cynical character. Throughout his first of numerous taxi rides in the city, Holden, bothered by the thought of consistent change yet fascinated by the idea of how others handle modification begins to ask his taxi driver the location of the ducks in Central Park when the lake freezes over.
“Then I thought of something, all of a sudden. “Hey, listen,” I said. “You know those ducks because lagoon right near Central Park South?
That little lake? By any opportunity, do you occur to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you occur to know, by any opportunity?” I understood it was only one chance in a million. He ‘reversed and looked at me like I was a madman.
“What’re ya tryna do, bud?” he stated. “Kid me?”” No– I was simply interested, that’s all.” (60 ). As exemplified by numerous signs throughout the book such as the wax museum, Holden finds solace and comfort in things that are continuous and do not alter. Holden’s interactions are screwed up by his animosity of “phoniness” and his popular and excessively judgmental side, constantly overwhelming and weakening the genuine and caring side seen only when Holden feels comforted and welcomed by his environment. His red searching cap is another sign of defense for Holden. “Ackley reevaluated at my hat …
“Up home we wear a hat like that to shoot deer in, for Chrissake,” he said. “That’s a deer shooting hat.” “Like hell it is.” I took it off and took a look at it. I sort of closed one eye, like I was taking objective at it. “This is a people shooting hat,” I stated. “I shoot individuals in this hat.” (22 ). When Holden says “I understood it was just one chance in a million.” (60 ), as he presents his question about the ducks to the cab driver, is his method of “people shooting” as demonstrated by his cap, a method of making the distinction between someone who would address his concern truthfully, or somebody in his mind “bogus”, or disingenuous, by the harsh realities of maturity and the adult world. This one in a million opportunity is Holden referring to his awareness that the odds of a complete stranger addressing his question seriously, are as great as none. Furthermore, the continuous change and continuous relocating Holden’s life, both of which he absolutely frowns at are symbolic of the ducks.
Holden’s changing from school to school is almost cyclical, as is the migration and the return of the ducks when the pond go back to its initial state. Ultimately, Holden finds himself trapped in a state of yearning for his childhood, his frequent use of alcohol and cigarettes and sense of maturity, all a façade, masking his yearning for a life of innocence and honesty.” It was partially frozen and partially not frozen. But I didn’t see any ducks around.” (154 ). Finally, Holden’s state of being is defined by the lagoon, not frozen, not unfrozen. He is exactly that, in a transition between childhood and adulthood, half frozen and half not, the ducks in the pond being a long lasting sign for the hesitation he shows to transition to the adult years, and his futile attempts to slow the unavoidable procedure of maturity.
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