RE: The Catcher in the Rye help with homework Chapter 12

Chapter 12


  1. Again, what does the duck question (asked of Horowitz, the cab driver) show about Holden’s character?
  2. “People always clap for the wrong things,” according to Holden. Cite three examples of this.
  3. Find two examples of ironies Holden is aware of in this chapter.
  4. Why do people have to say stuff like “glad to’ve met you” in order to stay alive? What does Holden mean?
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4 Answers

Again, what does the duck question (asked of Horowitz, the cab driver) show about Holden’s character?

In Chapter 12 Holden gets into a “vomity” cab with a driver named Horwitz. He asks again his question about the ducks and where they go in the winter, but Horwitz doesn’t know.

Holden’s obsession with the ducks in Central Park, he is very curious to discover the habits of the ducks and how they disappear and then reappear when the weather gets warm, acts as a way for him to focus on questions that are difficult to answer, like why young people die.

Holden asks this question over and over again, failing to get a satisfactory answer.  This question about the disappearing ducks was always his way of asking about the isolation and transformation of death.  Since, he is stuck in a cycle of grief over the loss of his little brother, he can’t make sense of his death and cannot find his way back to participation in society without getting some answers.

Holden longs to understand the cycle that the ducks follow, he somehow equates it with a sense of eternity, where life is renewed each and every spring.  It is comforting to think that there is life after death, especially thinking about Allie who will forever be a child.

Holden’s desire to see the ducks again would provide him with comfort, they are familiar, they remind him of when he was a child.  So in a sense even though Holden sits by the frozen pond and contemplates his own death, the ducks really provide something for Holden to live for, waiting for them to return gives him a sense of purpose.

Even though, he can’t get a satisfactory answer to where the ducks go in the winter and how they know to come back, in his isolation of never receiving an answer, he is comforted by the question, a mystery of nature, one that provides clarity to other mysteries that cannot be explained, like death.

Answered on 09.06.2017.
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