How does Holden relate to the ducks at Central Park in The Catcher in the Rye?
The pond in Central Park is one of the novel's major symbols. Throughout the novel, Holden obsesses about these ducks because he, like the ducks, feels like he has no place to go. After leaving Pencey, Holden is effectively homeless. If he returns home, he will get in trouble.
When preparing to leave Pencey Prep in The Catcher in the Rye, Holden says he "was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over." Throughout the novel, Holden ponders this idea and asks as many people as he can in hopes of finding the answer.
Holden asks two cab drivers about the ducks and they both treat him like he's crazy. The second one, Horowitz, raises Holden's anxiety about them even more by talking about the fish that remain in the pond over the winter. Holden says, "[The fish] can't just ignore the ice. They can't just ignore it." Then he worries about how the fish eat.
Finally, Holden takes a walk in the park to look for the ducks, but doesn't see any. It's here where Holden has one of his first physical breakdowns. He says he was "shivering like a bastard" and "thought he'd probably get pneumonia and die."
It's clear throughout the novel that, like the ducks in winter, Holden feels he has no place to go.