In the book, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, the main character, Holden Caulfield, is very intrigued by a lagoon located in Central Park South. He wanted to know where the ducks went in the winter when the pond froze over. He first mentions these ducks on p. 13, and then later asks two different New York City cab drivers if they know where the ducks go. (pgs 60 & 81). It seems very odd that Holden is so curious about knowing where these ducks go in the winter. It is my thought that the ducks symbolize something very significant in the book, which is why he is so interested in knowing where they go. They could symbolize a number of things in Holden's life.
They could be a security for him. For example, when he knows they are there he feels safe because they belong there. However, when they are not there he feels insecure because they are supposed to be a part of Central Park. The ducks can also symbolize security because the ducks are very suiting to the environment of the lagoon, however when they are not there, the lagoon does not seem right. This could be related to Holden's life because he feels insecure now that he no longer has a school to go to, so he feels as if he does not fit in to his environment.
The ducks could also be clueing the reader in to Holden's personality. They seem to display that Holden is concerned for things that are weak. For instance, Holden is afraid that the ducks do not survive in the winter, because he does not know if they migrate or get taken care of by someone. Therefore, Holden is concerned that the ducks just die off in the winter because they do not have the strength to make it through the harsh weather. This connects to Holden's life, because it shows that he is concerned that he does not have the strength to survive. He is in a very vulnerable state now that he has been kicked out of yet another school, and this is symbolized by the ducks.
The ducks can also symbolize being free. This is because ducks can fly, so therefore one would assume that they are free to go where they want. However, since Holden is unsure as to whether or not they migrate, one suspects that Holden does not believe the ducks are free. Additionally, when a cab driver asks Holden what happens to the fish in the lagoon, Holden thinks it is a silly question. This is because he sees the fish as being locked in, while the ducks are free. Holden relates that to his life because he is free to do what he wants for the next several days now that he has failed out of school. So he is a duck, no longer a fish. However, Holden does not know what to do, just as he does not know what the ducks do in the winter.
As the story continues I have a strong feeling that the ducks will have another role. The true meaning of what they symbolize should unfold. I predict, that since Holden lives in New York, he will go to Central Park at some point to discover for himself what happens to the ducks.