Holden Symbolism In Catcher In The Rye

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Growing up is a period of time full of problems such as losing friends, becoming more independent, the pressure of college, and building careers. As expressed in J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield and the many literary symbols associated with his story illustrate the depths and struggles of those problems. One of these symbols are the ducks that live in the lagoon at Central Park. The ducks, constantly swimming through his thoughts, represent his anxiety about children and what will happen to them after they grow up. The record, which Holden buys for Phoebe, symbolizes any attempt of preserving one’s childhood. Holden’s beloved hunting hat symbolizes comfort and protection during his journey into adulthood. Together, the…show more content…
This anxiety stands as an indication that he is worried about where children are going to go as they are entering adulthood. Holden wants to know “where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. [He] wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something” (13). The ducks, harmless, carefree, and fragile, represent children. Both children and the ducks are very unprepared for what lies ahead of them. The inevitable freeze represents adulthood, for it contains harsh conditions, such as like seen in reality, and is unpreventable. The cruel conditions of the winter’s freeze symbolize the harsh conditions of reality and the struggles one must face during the process of entering adulthood. Children must grow up and become adults in the same way the ducks must find a way to survive the harsh conditions of the freeze, for neither of the subjects is prepared for the future. Holden is overwhelmed by the thought of the ducks to the point where it drives him to check on them: “ [He] figured [he’d] go by that little lake and see what the hell the ducks were doing, see if they were around or not” (153). Holden is able to draw a parallel between the duck’s future and his own. He checks on the ducks the same way he wishes someone would check on him, making sure he is okay and protected during the harsh conditions of life. His visiting of the ducks…show more content…
Holden’s concern about the ducks escalates to a point where he feels compelled to ask multiple people what will happen when they are forced to relocate. Almost immediately after getting into his cab from Pencey Prep, he asks the driver, “‘do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?’” (60). Holden’s anxiety regarding the ducks mirrors his own anxiety for himself. In a lot of ways, the ducks are similar to Holden. Both the ducks and Holden are unprepared, carefree, and still desire someone to look after them during their process in which they must face harsh conditions. Holden is very anxious to know who will help the ducks when they have to leave their home, but receives no response. In this symbol, the ducks are representative of children and Holden’s inner turmoil and where they are going in the future. Holden is desperate to know that children will be safe and cared for when their innocence is threatened by the encroachment of adulthood from them while growing up. Later on, he gets another ride in a taxi cab. He asks the driver “‘where they go in the wintertime’” (81). The repetition of his question demonstrates his urgency for an answer to the unknown. Holden wants to know what will happen to a child, more specifically himself, when they grow up and who will care for them. This question of where they go is symbolic of him not knowing where he will go
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