Curiosity is often referred to as the “fuel of development. ” During our adolescent stage, we as human beings are intrigued with almost all of our surroundings, whether it’s what the light switch does or why the sky is blue. In J. D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden Caulfield’s fascination with ducks is an example of curiosity, which is a more common trait in children. “The Catcher in the Rye” is a story set around the 1950’s and narrated by Holden Caulfield, a young man who was undergoing treatment in a mental hospital.
Holden narrates a story of his experiences at Pencey Prep School in Arlington, Pennsylvania the previous winter. In “The Catcher in the Rye” Holden’s curiosity with ducks is much more than just an interest in the animals, but the curiosity itself sums up his character as a whole. Right off the bat, the reader gets the idea that Holden isn’t exactly the happiest individual around. Within the first few sentences of the novel, Holden’s bitter side is exposed.
For example, while introducing himself he lets the reader know that he isn’t too thrilled about explaining who he is by saying “I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything” (Salinger, 1). With almost everyone he struck a conversation with, he asked about the ducks and where they go in the winter. By asking this question multiple times, it shows that Holden is curious, and curiosity is often correlated with adolescents. Therefore, his curiosity with the ducks shows that although age wise he is a young adult, he possesses a maturity level of a child.
Holden had a strong belief that reaching adulthood was a negative feat and that all adults were “phonies”. As much as Holden despises adults, reaching adulthood is something everyone goes through. The winter is an unpleasant change that makes the ducks leave their comfortable place, which symbolizes how adulthood is making Holden leave his comfortable place as well. Holden felt as if he can do whatever he pleases and it results in his expulsion from two schools, which shows just how childlike he really is.
He thought all adults were phonies because no matter what events happened in their lives, positive or negative, adults moved on with their lives. He even accuses his own parents of being phony because after his brother Allie’s death, despite the sadness and grief, they were able to move forward with their lives. After getting kicked out of Pencey Prep, Holden quickly realizes that life is run by so called “phonies” and ultimately becomes one himself.
Holden became a phony by contradicting himself, when he always talked about how much he cared for Jane Gallagher, his childhood crush, yet never called her. Holden is afraid of change and its outcome. The ducks traveling to a warmer climate in the winter represents change and eventually gives Holden the reassurance that although change occurs, things get back to where they should be eventually. Holden’s puts himself in a predicament where he doesn’t allow his self to shy away from Allie’s death, because of guilt.
Holden struggles in wanting to stay the same but like the ducks, eventually learns that change is necessary in adapting to his environment and to overcome obstacles that are presented upon him. J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” is a novel enriched in symbolism. The ducks seem as if they are just animals Holden is fascinated with, but the fascination itself is symbolic of who exactly Holden Caulfield is. Curiosity is often thought of to being the key to success but in Holden’s case it is curiosity that is what is holding him back.
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