What does Holden's concern for the ducks in Central Park reveal about him? In what other ways does he demonstrate this characteristic?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden's concern about the ducks in Central Park reveals that he is exceptionally kind-hearted, in spite of the cynical, negative attitude he typically expresses. The story takes place just before Christmas, which means that the weather is quite cold. Holden pictures those ducks suffering in the snow and ice, and he is evidently hoping they had sense enough to migrate south by now. Holden is perhaps the only person in New York who thinks about the ducks or cares what happens to them. He asks the cab driver in Chapter 9:

By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?

The cab driver becomes belligerent.

He turned around and looked at me like I was a madman. "What're ya tryna do, bud?" he said. "Kid me?"

This is like Holden's introduction to Manhattan. Later he will express his same compassion about people he meets, including the young prostitute who calls herself Sunny. In Chapter 13, when Sunny wants to hang her dress up, Holden does it for her. He writes:

It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it up.  I thought of her going in a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all.

Holden shows the same sensibility when he tells about his meeting with his teacher Mr. Spencer, when he meets the two nuns in Chapter 15, and whenever he thinks about Jane Gallagher or his little brother Allie who died of leukemia. Holden affects a cynicism and indifference which is constantly belied by his descriptions of his real feelings. His most revealing self-description comes in Chapter 22 when he tells his little sister Phoebe:

"I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."



Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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