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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What is the significance of the taxi cabs in The Catcher in the Rye?

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During one of Holden's cab rides in the city, he carries on a conversation with a taxi driver named Horwitz about where the ducks in the Central Park lagoon go in the winter. Holden wonders whether someone in a truck picks them up or if they actually fly south for the winter like he's been taught. The cab driver gets upset with Holden's question and tells him that he has no idea. He calls Holden's question stupid and proceeds to discuss what happens to the fish in the lagoon instead of the ducks. Horwitz also declines Holden's offer to have a drink with him and speeds away without answering Holden's question. The taxi cab and the driver's callous, defensive personality represent the adult world and emphasize Holden's loneliness. Similar to most adults, Horwitz dismisses Holden's concerns about life and refuses to give him a concrete answer. The fact that the taxicab is moving and transporting Holden throughout the city symbolically relates to Holden's life, which is only moving forward towards adulthood. Before Holden reaches his destination (adulthood), he seeks reassurance that everything will be alright. Unfortunately, Horwitz and the other callous adults Holden interacts with do not give him concrete answers or show him sympathy.

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when he arrives in the city, he asks the cab driver if he knows where the ducks in Central Park go when the lagoon freezes over. It is something Holden has been wondering about ever since his preparations to leave Pencey. The driver's curt reply is a reminder that not everyone shares Holden's values. When Holden checks into a hotel, he is surrounded by prostitutes, perverts and heavy drinkers, all of which contrast with the serenity of the park. Later, Holden returns to the subject of the ducks with another cab driver. It seems that if he could get an answer to this question, his mind would be at ease, knowing the ducks are safe. It is a childish desire, in a way, but it also offers an important insight into Holden's psyche. Therefore, the Taxi driver's represent the rest of society, they are curt and dismissive of Holden and he feels alienated.

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