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Franny lies asleep on the couch in the living room of the Glass apartment. This room is cluttered with furniture and pictures of the children's days on "It's a Wise Child." The living room window looks out onto a school for girls. Zooey enters the room with a cigar and wakes up Franny. She has had terrible dreams about diving for a can of coffee at the bottom of the pool while people stood around and watched. When she came up for air, girls from her dorm tried to hit her on the head with an oar. Franny then tells Zooey about her religion professor, who she thinks hates her because she does not respond favorably when he is being phony and charming. Zooey spots sheet music with a picture of their parents on the cover. He asks Franny how their parents could have produced the children that they did. Franny asks whether he received his script. Zooey says yes and that the writer wanted him to go out for drinks late the night before. Zooey rants about out-of-towners who try too hard to find quaint restaurants and bars.
They talk about acting and scripts. Zooey has an offer to go work on a film in France, but he does not want to leave New York. As he is saying this, Franny is remembering the Saturday before--ruining Lane Coutell's day. Zooey says that the two of them must remember not to rail at other people and things, but at themselves. Seymour and Buddy made them into freaks, Zooey says. Zooey goes on to say that he is frustrated with the ego and the phoniness of television. Franny says that he sounds like she does. She tried to ignore her frustration at first but recently could not do it anymore. She says that she wants wisdom from college and she cannot find it. Zooey asks if that is what she wants from the Jesus prayer--because if she is hoping to gain things from that, she is just as bad as someone who wants physical things like clothing or food. Franny tells him that she is worried about her motives for doing the prayer but does not know what else to do. She says she wants to talk to Seymour.
Looking outside, Zooey sees a beautiful scene of a young girl and a dog. He becomes annoyed that people get so sidetracked from the beauty of life. Zooey tells Franny that their brother Walter's religious philosophy was that God did bad things to people who called the world ugly. Zooey asks Franny if he can talk to her for a while. Franny agrees. Zooey tells her that he once wanted to try the Jesus prayer, too, but did not. He says that it is too hard on the family to have her do this and break down at home. In addition, he has a problem with the way that she seems to loathe and despise the professors that she talks about. Zooey thinks that it should not be personal. Further, Zooey does not think that Franny understands Jesus. He thinks that she wants to make him more lovable than he is. Zooey also has a problem with Franny putting down egos. Some are good, like those that make creativity possible. Zooey then returns to Franny not understanding Jesus. Zooey calls him the most intelligent man in the Bible. After all, he understood that God and man are all the same. Zooey finishes. Franny has been sobbing for most of the speech. Zooey apologizes briefly and leaves the room.
This section starts the build-up to the climax of the story. Zooey, with the help of his older brothers, will eventually counsel Franny out of this breakdown. But before doing that, he must outline the religious philosophy that has been handed down to them. First, he reminds Franny that she must turn inward and take responsibility for her own feelings. While she rails against egos and phoniness, she must remember that she has much more perspective on this life than most people. Therefore, Franny must remember to recognize the problem as hers. The implication is that instead of blaming other people for their egos, Franny should remind herself to forgive them for their failures.
Zooey also questions Franny's motives with the prayer. Since the principle that they learned was "no-knowledge," she should not be trying to acquire knowledge or wisdom from this prayer. If she was trying to do that, Franny admits, she would be no better off than people trying to accumulate material possessions. Another problem that Zooey has is with Franny's personal hatred of people who are egotistical. Zooey recognizes that professors can be bad, but he says that Franny should not hate them, just what they represent. This indicates that part of losing all pretension and phoniness is being able to appreciate and love all human beings. This seems to relate to Buddy's idea of this story being a love story. To become pure, Franny should be able to love people even without loving their egos.
The point that Franny does not understand Jesus is an important one. Zooey says this to Franny because he thinks that Franny mistakenly, and perhaps subconsciously, combines Jesus with other Biblical figures and with their brother Seymour. In truth, Zooey thinks, Franny wants to be connected to Seymour more than to Jesus. Franny's tears go a long way toward supporting Zooey's claim.
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.
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Review: J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey
I struggled with clenched teeth to digest this dry, stiff, overly pedantic, wordy nonsense. To me, great literature is written in a clear, concise, simple fashion. This work is "frittered away by detail[s]" (Thoreau). Salinger pompously tries to express to his readers (through Franny, at least,) the absurdity of being uppity. If he is attempting to prove her point through his writing style, he should have offered his readers a butter knife rather than a machete to h... Read more→
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