Ducks, ducks, and more ducks are all these two old Jewish men talk about while sitting on a park bench together. As they attempt to bring up other subjects and lose their train of thought, they always revert back to the ducks swimming in the lake.
Painful as their misguided conversation can be, Emil and George manage to strike upon some gems of universal wisdom. While discussing the migration pattern of the ducks, they reflect on the life of the leader. The leader duck leads his flock from place to place, occasionally letting his second in command take over. When the leader dies, the second duck takes his place. And so it goes, until that duck dies and a new leader takes over. While this may be interpreted several ways, these men have obviously outlived their usefulness. They could easily be seen as former leader ducks just waiting to die for someone else to take their place on the bench as one generation gives power over to the next.
George and Emil also come to the agreement that everything in life has a purpose. The ducks and blue herons live in constant battle with one another; the ducks exist to feed the herons, and the herons exist to eat the ducks. When the herons die, they go back into the food cycle to eventually become duck food. While heron might not really eat ducks, it follows that if the lives and deaths of birds have meaning, so do the lives of George and Emil.
They manage to instill meaning in their sitting on the bench by describing all the mundane things ducks do as having purpose.
Ducks eat, swim, mate, die, and even sweat in George and Emil’s world; and all these are things George and Emil have done or will do.
Their conversation becomes increasingly grim as George and Emil discuss the dirty stratosphere and ducks with lung cancer. They reason something must be terribly wrong with people if they can’t keep their own air clean.
Because ducks must live together, so must people. Ducks and people who for some reason live alone have lives unworthy of living. George and Emil take comfort in having each other to sit with, despite all the bickering they do. They prefer the park to their homes, even though once they are in the park they have nowhere to go but back.
In the most thinly veiled metaphors for their impending deaths, George and Emil talk about the natural dangers ducks face when flying. Eventually, their talk turns to duck hunting and inevitable death for all ducks whether they are shot, poisoned by pollution, or die of natural causes. Even though George and Emil don’t have much time left on this earth, the thought that their lives are as natural as ducks’ lives gives them comfort somehow.