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J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye Essay

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Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses symbols to give meaning to Holden’s journey through New York City and explain the inner turmoil that drives his mental collapse. For example, Salinger uses the Holden’s preoccupation with the ducks to exemplify his resistance to adapting, especially to his imminent adulthood. Throughout the novel, he asks several people throughout the book where the ducks in Central Park go during the winter. None of them are sure, and this increases Holden’s feeling of panic. He wants reassurance that he will be able to transition without becoming superficial like many of the adults he sees around him, and that he will be okay in the end. However, he is incapable of admitting his need so few people attempt to help him. Upon leaving Pencey Prep, he finds that he had no real connection to the world. Due to this, he reaches out to anyone he can think of, except the people who can help.
Holden’s questions about the ducks are posed to two cab drivers. The first has no answer, whereas the second provides more insight into why Holden wants to know at all. The first cab driver was annoyed and asked “What’re you trying to do Bud?... Kid me? (60). The cab driver doesn’t really understand what or why he’s asking. All this does for Holden is confirm the uncertainty of his future and further embed his foreboding about growing into an adult.
Conversely, the second cab driver completely understands the underlying meaning of Holden’s question and has much the same fear. Holden asks the same question. “Well you know the ducks that swim around in it (the lagoon)?...Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance?” Horwitz the Cab Driver responds with surprising emotion.. “How the hell s...


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...re, Holden sits down and begin to envisage his death. He thinks about how it would affect his family, and that is the only thing he is holding on to. “Anyway, I kept worrying that I was getting pneumonia, with all of those hunks of ice in my hair, and that I was going to die. I felt sorry as hell for my mother and father.” As a result of Salinger’s use of the ducks as a motif, Holden’s meltdown is comprehensible. Finally, the reader sees Holden forced to acknowledge that he has to become an adult, just as the ducks cannot stay in the pond during the winter. His mental breakdown is in part caused by his realization that he cannot be a fish, suspended in time until everything is better.. He at this point is forced to acknowledge that he is not suspended in time, but is progressing, little as he likes it. This moment by the pond is almost the cornerstone of the novel.


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