In the bathroom, Franny begins to perspire. She cries for a while, until she looks at her little green book again. When she comes out, she tells Lane that she is much better but not hungry. When he tells her the plan for the weekend, she does not remember any of his friends. This upsets Lane, especially because Franny tells him that she cannot remember his friends because they all look, talk, and act the same. It is not only Lane's friends, though, Franny says. Women all act the same, too, even when they try to be different. Lane begins to get worried about her. Franny tells him that she has quit the play she was going to be in. She says she hated the phoniness of it and the horrible lines she had to say. She doesn't want to be around people with big egos anymore. Lane tells her that a psychoanalyst would say she was afraid of competition. Franny begins perspiring again, and her teeth start chattering. As she searches in her purse for a napkin to wipe her forehead, she takes out her green book again.
Lane asks again about the book. Finally, she tells him that it is called "The Way of the Pilgrim." It is a religious text about a poor man in Russia who learns to speak the "Jesus prayer." This prayer involves repeating the same prayer--"Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me"--over and over, until it becomes a part of your heartbeat. After that, you are continually praying even without trying to. Franny likes the idea because this practice is supposed to purify your mind and heart. She says that there are similar prayers in other religions. By now, she is very emotional. Lane is somewhat bored and says that there is no science behind this idea. Franny excuses herself and faints on the way to the bathroom. When she comes to, Lane is there and worried. He tells her to rest for the afternoon. He also says that perhaps he can come up and visit her in her room, and he implies that they have not been sexual in a long time. He goes to get her some water, and Franny begins to pray soundlessly.
In Franny's rampage against the lack of difference among Lane's friends, she reveals even more annoyance with conformity. Franny also admits that she herself is guilty of this conformity, which disturbs her a great deal. Further, Franny's quitting the play shows how much she has come to hate putting on roles. Since she feels like she and everyone else are acting like something they are actually not, she does not want to be a part if it at all. She says that she would not want anyone she cared about to see her being so phony.
Lane mentions that a psychoanalyst might tell Franny that she is afraid of competition. Psychoanalysis, which was supposed to reveal one's inner, repressed thoughts, was very popular among some people during this period. J. D. Salinger often makes fun of it in his writing, however, because it tries to explain people in terms of their society. Lane thinks that Franny might be afraid of competition because competition was considered to be an important element of society. Americans were all supposed to be striving for success, achieving it, preferably, before their neighbors. Franny is not afraid of competition, though, she simply does not want to engage in it at all. She believes it to be a waste of time when one might be creating something worthwhile instead.
The prayer that Franny ultimately engages in, the "Jesus prayer," is a response to her frustrations with her society and culture. Franny wants to purify her spirit because she feels that she has been corrupted by the conformity, destructiveness, and ego of her world. She does not want to be tainted by any of these traits. So, instead, she is attracted to the idea of turning to the spiritual world, not the physical world. This prayer is said to allow for a direct connection between God and individual, so that no one would pretend to be better than anyone else in the world.
When this story first appeared in the pages of the New Yorker magazine, readers assumed that Franny passes out because she is pregnant. This interpretation is not correct, even though Lane does allude to a past sexual encounter between the two of them.
I am a huge JD Salinger fan, and I'm one of those people who's read "Catcher in the Rye" like 200 times, several times a year since I was about twelve. I buy into every cliche said about it: it changed my life, it made me want to write, it validated my own teen angst, Salinger captures teen-speak amazingly well, Holden Caulfield is vulnerable and wise, a kid-hero, etc.
Take a Study Break!