Franny and Zooey
(1961), a work of fiction by American author J.D. Salinger, contains two shorter works, the short story "Franny" and the novella Zooey
. Franny and Zooey are siblings, the youngest members of the fictional Glass family who figure prominently in many of Salinger's writings. "Franny" chronicles the title character's existential dis-ease while away at college and encountering for the first time the harsh realities of the world. Zooey
charts Franny's brother's attempts to help her find some sense of stability, purpose, and solace.
"Franny" opens as Franny's boyfriend, Lane Coutell, also a college student, waits at the train station for her to pick him up. He rereads her most recent letter. In it, she discusses her love for him, as well as a fondness for the poet Sappho. Franny arrives, and they set off to an expensive French restaurant for lunch; Lane conceals how excited he is about their reunion.
Lane's decision to hide his enthusiasm hints at the deep rift between him and Franny. Though Franny tells him she has missed him, she really doesn't mean it. Lane is arrogant, which only frustrates her. Then, she gets angry with herself for feeling frustrated. The anger Franny feels about her frustrations with Lane, however, is indicative of the rage and harsh judgments that have permeated her life lately. She despises her conceited professors and the entire college structure. Though she once loved acting, she quit theater out of fear that the level of self-focus needed to succeed would end up making her conceited like those around her.
Franny and Lane attempt to converse throughout their lunch, but it is not easy. Franny tells him about a book she is reading and how important it has become to her. Titled The Way of the Pilgrim
, it is an old religious story about a pious man who repeats the Jesus Prayer in hopes of making the words of the prayer part of his soul. Lane only half-listens to Franny's fervent response to the book, even going so far as to ask her if she really believes such spiritual mumbo jumbo. Franny does not answer.
During the course of their reunion, Franny looks unwell: pale, clammy, and not hungry in the slightest. As she walks across the restaurant, she collapses. Lane and the restaurant manager rush to her aid, but she is not seriously ill or injured. She might not have eaten in some time. Lane goes to hail them a cab while Franny stares heavenward, silently mouthing what may well be the Jesus Prayer.Zooey
continues Franny's story but from her brother Zooey's perspective. The novella begins with a fictional author's preface, in which the character of Buddy Glass—Franny and Zooey's brother—claims authorship of the story to follow.
Zooey's tale starts with the title character relaxing in a hot bath with a cigarette and an old letter from his brother Buddy. Zooey is twenty-five years old, an actor, and very handsome. Buddy wrote the letter during Zooey's final days at college as a means of allaying their mother's concerns. She wanted Zooey to get a PhD before starting his acting career and hoped that Buddy could talk him into it. However, Buddy doesn't stay on subject, and his letter meanders, touching upon several different subjects, including the suicide of their eldest brother, Seymour.
Bessie, the Glass siblings' mother, enters the bathroom. She informs Zooey that Franny has just returned from college unexpectedly after falling ill in a restaurant. She is in the living room, hysterical, and won't eat, talk, or return to school. Bessie asks Zooey to get out of the bath to go talk to Franny.
After calming Franny down and learning about the source of her distress, Zooey tells their mother about The Way of the Pilgrim
and its effect on Franny. She found this book on Buddy and Seymour's bookshelf. Both Buddy and Seymour studied religion and philosophy, and they heaped so much of it onto their younger siblings, that Zooey feels they damaged him and Franny. He thinks that the two of them are unable to function normally in the real world because all the philosophical and religious issues and contradictions they learned from their brothers are constantly swimming around in their respective heads.
Zooey returns to Franny, and they continue their conversation. She shares with him her unhappiness with school, her professors, her acting, her boyfriend—her life. Zooey doesn't exactly respond in a supportive way; he becomes overly critical and essentially chastises her for having a breakdown. Franny dissolves in tears, and Zooey goes into Buddy and Seymour's old bedroom. Looking at all their belongings still in the room, he picks up the separate phone line and calls the main house number for the Glasses. He then talks to Franny on the phone, pretending to be their brother Buddy. Franny, now sitting on their parents' bed, eventually realizes whom she is really talking to and the discord between them instantly blows over. Zooey shares some words of advice Seymour once imparted to him, explaining that you should always live with love and optimism. Others may not notice, but Jesus does. Zooey hangs up, and Franny smiles as she looks heavenward.