In The Catcher in the Rye, what do the ducks mean? Are they important?

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Holden continually contemplates where the ducks in Central Park fly when the water ices over. Holden wonders whether or not the ducks fly south for the winter like they are supposed to or whether a random man in a truck comes by and picks them up. Holden even questions two...

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Holden continually contemplates where the ducks in Central Park fly when the water ices over. Holden wonders whether or not the ducks fly south for the winter like they are supposed to or whether a random man in a truck comes by and picks them up. Holden even questions two different cab drivers regarding the issue. Essentially, the ducks symbolize adolescents instinctively entering adulthood, which is a pressing issue that worries Holden. Holden's fixation with the ducks represents his anxiety about becoming an adult. Holden's question regarding the plight of the ducks during the winter corresponds to his uncertainty about entering adulthood. As an extremely lonely, traumatized adolescent who struggles with depression and anxiety, Holden doubts that he will be able to survive in the competitive world of adults like the ducks do during the winter.

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Yes, the ducks are important.  For Holden, the ducks represent continuity, something that he needs in his life.  When he goes to Central Park to look for the ducks, he has a question about where they go in the winter.  Technically, what really fascinates him is that they come back in a very reliable way.

Holden is suffering from grief over the death of his brother.  He is isolated from society feeling unable to make a true connection with anyone. Holden finds everyone around him to be phony. 

The ducks in the park comfort him, make him feel safe in the belief that there is something reliable in life.  The ducks always come back, you can depend on it.  This provides Holden with comfort.

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The ducks need to rely upon their instincts as the winter approaches. Holden is unconsciously equating this plight with that of adolescents who are confronted with the gray convoluted world of adulthood. He only supposes two possibilities for these ducks. They can either follow their instincts and fly south, or someone in a truck comes to take them away. This is his quandary. He feels no "sense" of where to go or what to do. So he fears that men in trucks will come to take him away. He does end up in a facility of some sort to care for his psychological problems.

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