The ducks are a very important symbol when looking at Holden, as he identifies himself with them.
He tries to find out, where the ducks go in winter. He doesn’t know this and it can be transferred to his own life, as he also doesn’t know where he should go. He thinks by finding the solution to the ducks problem he could also find a solution to his own one. So he keeps asking the cab drivers, if they “happen to know”(p.54) where the ducks go in winter, when the lake gets all “frozen over” (p.54), he sees only little chance in it, though.
This “frozen over” can also be transferred to Holden’s own life and feelings, as he seems to be stuck in his development and doesn’t know where to go.
Although he actually knows the ducks are gone, he wants to visit them. But the lake is already frozen over, as his life seems to, and they are gone. He is too late. But nevertheless he hoped to find them on the lagoon, as he hopes to find himself.
The ducks also show the thinking about independence vs. independence.
Holden thinks about the fact that the ducks might be taken away by “some guy who comes in a truck” (p.11) to collect them. The other opportunity he sees is that they fly away on their own. This means that he thinks about whether they are dependent or independent. Therefore he tries to find out if he himself now has to be dependent or independent.
The ducks also represent being an adult, in contrast to the fish who represent the childhood. The ducks are known to fly south, they are more independent, they develop and sort of gain new experiences, because they see more of the world, where else the fish stay constantly in the lake and don’t seem to change.
Holden knows he’s probably in the development from a child to an adult, though he seems to be stuck. Therefore he hardly wants to find out, what happens to the ducks, because he absolutely doesn’t know where he stands at the moment and what is going to happen next. He tries to compare himself to the ducks and sees a solution in getting an answer to his question where they go, besides he realizes their possible independence, which he desires.
The grey hair:
Holden often points at his grey hair in the book.
Grey hair normally is associated with old people, or grown ups. With pointing at his grey hair Holden tries to prove that he in a way already is a grown up.
He wants to show that he’s an adult, although he hasn’t found out yet, if he already wants to be an adult. But nevertheless, the grey hair should show the “being an adult” and he therefore often uses it to be accepted as one. For example on page 138 he tells the hat-check girl he wants to date her and because she’s of the opinion that she could be his mother he shows her his grey hair, to leave the impression of being older.
Holden is in a stage between a grown up and childhood. He partly acts like a child and still wants to be a child, as they have no real worries and problems, and partly like a grown up. In chapter two he already points at his grey hair for the first time. “I act quite young for my age sometimes…It’s really ironical, because I’m six foot two and a half and I have grey hair. I really do. The one side of my had is full of millions of grey hairs.” (p.8) Here he really emphasizes his grey hair for the first time. This quote also shows his indecision between being an adult and childhood Holden obviously is in
And as he points at his grey hair throughout the whole book, this indecision follows him and is in his mind throughout the whole book.
Holden’s interpretation of the poem “catcher in the rye”:
Holden states that he would like to be a “catcher in the rye”, he understands that as someone who catches the kids who are playing in a field, to protect them from falling down a cliff.
His understanding of life is to help others, especially children, from falling down. He probably wants to save them from making through the same as he does. “What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff” (p.156). He thinks if he wouldn’t catch them they’d fall down. Mr. Antolini predicts such a downfall for Holden in chapter 24. He says that Holden is going to fall, because he is looking for something that doesn’t exist. He associates that with missing maturity.
Holden also might realize that he is falling and therefore wishes to protect other children from this, as he knows how bad it can be.
The other time the song “The catcher in the Rye” comes up Holden realizes it be sung by a little boy with whom he absolutely can identify.
The boy isn’t paid any attention to from the parents, just like Holden. They don’t realize that he is in danger, because he is walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk. That can be transferred to Holden’s life as well. His parents also don’t realize that he is in a for him dangerous situation. This boy is now singing the song of the catcher in the rye. Perhaps the idea of wanting to be the catcher comes up in Holden’s mind at that point. Because he can absolutely identify with the boy he wants to be his catcher. Holden says about hearing the song “It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed anymore.” (p.104). That’s the first time something makes him feel better, instead of even more depressed. That shows that he has found something positive, and that is probably the idea of the catcher in the rye and this song sung by the little boy Holden can identify with, as he also needs a catcher who saves him.