Holden begins his story at Pencey Prep, one of the many schools he has been kicked out of. The rough three day journey Holden endures was to prolong telling his parents about failing out yet another school.
Upon arriving at Penn Station, Holden checks into the Edmont Hotel, which he learns to be full of perverts. Looking for some company, he goes to the Lavendar Room. However, Holden ends up back at the hotel, alone, after a long night full of fighting and loneliness.
Holden asks Sally Hayes, a girl he has dated for a long time, out on a date. Everything is fine until Holden goes on a rant against conformity and asks her to runaway with him. Sally freaks out and leaves Holden all alone. Later that day, Holden meets up with an old friend, Carl Luce. Once again there is an argument which leaves Holden by himself.
These objects represent the loss of innocence and the act of growing up. As Holden is wandering around Central Park, he drops the record, which represented their childhood, that he brought for Phoebe as a gift. When walking by Phoebe's school, Holden sees "f*** you" written on the wall and tries to wipe it off. He believes that children should not be exposed to that type of language. Lastly, Holden gave his red hat to Phoebe as a sign of protection, but when she gives it back to him it symbolizes that Phoebe no longer needs to be protected because she is growing up.
The museum represents the preservation of the past. When Holden goes into the museums, he is reminded that he doesn't want anyone to change, anyone to grow up, anyone to lose their innocence. The ducks and the carousel represented the inevitability of moving on and growing up. The ducks come up various times as Holden makes his way through NYC, but when they're not at the lagoon for once he realizes something. The ducks must do something to survive the winter, and Holden needs to do something to survive his own winter. When Holden sees Phoebe riding the carousel, he begins to cry. This is a happy cry. Holden realizes as Phoebe is reaching for the gold ring that you need to let people grow up. Life is meant for growing and learning from your mistakes. At this moment Holden is genuinely happy, for once.