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Franny and Zooey

J.D. Salinger

Zooey - Part 4

Zooey - Part 3

Overall Analysis and Themes

Summary

When Zooey leaves the living room, he runs into Bessie, who wonders why her son is perspiring. He ignores her and enters Seymour and Buddy's old room. There, he reads several quotations from various books of world literature, which are printed neatly all over the door. Zooey sits down at Seymour's desk and looks at all the books in the room. Then, he reads from Seymour's make-shift diary, a stack of shirt-cardboards covered with writing. He puts the cardboards down and sits for almost half an hour. Then, he picks up Buddy's private phone and dials the main apartment number. He places his handkerchief over the mouthpiece and waits.

Franny and Bessie are in the living room. The phone rings. Bessie gets it and comes to tell Franny that it is Buddy on the phone for her. Franny picks up the phone in her parent's room. "Buddy" (really Zooey) asks how she is. Franny talks for a while about Zooey. She says that he speaks in circles and rants and frustrates her. Then, Franny realizes that it is Zooey on the phone. She tells him that she cannot take any more. Zooey tells her that he called to say that she should not stop the prayer if she does not want to. But he has a few more things to say: When Franny decided to say the prayer, she did not go looking for a master to teach her to pray, she came home. Therefore, to some degree, she wants help from the family. And she does not understand that Bessie, with her chicken soup, is offering Franny holy nourishment. Zooey tells her that he and Buddy saw her in a play the summer before and that she was very good. He tells her to use her crazy education to become a great actress. He believes that she, like him, wants to be remembered for something, to have an honorable skull like Yorick's (a reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet; see Commentary section below). And, he says, if Franny was meant to act, then she should act.

Zooey continues to tell her that she should not care about the stupidity of the audiences. After all, it is none of her business. After a pause, Zooey tells Franny that one time when Zooey was on "It's a Wise Child," Seymour told him to shine his shoes. Since it was a radio show and the studio audiences were stupid, Zooey did not want to. But, Seymour told him to do it for the "Fat Lady." Zooey did and remembered the idea of the Fat Lady. Franny says that Seymour told her about the Fat Lady, too. Zooey interprets this image of the Fat Lady as being everyone. Every person, no matter how egotistical or stupid, then, deserves their respect. And the Fat Lady is not only every normal person, but she is Jesus Christ, too. After this revelation, Zooey and Franny get off the phone. Franny lies smiling at the ceiling, then falls asleep.

Commentary

Zooey goes to use the telephone as an attempt to impersonate Buddy. To do so, he enters Buddy and Seymour's room and takes Seymour's seat at his desk. The phone, then, becomes an almost religious device because through it (as some critics argue), Franny seems to talk to Zooey, Buddy, and Seymour all at the same time. Therefore, it is a communication device through space, time, and people. And, it allows Zooey to take on the role of older brother and advisor. And the phone does its job: The story ends with both Franny and Zooey having moved one step closer to self-understanding and adulthood.

In Zooey's final speech, he brings up several important images. First, the "consecrated chicken soup," which is what he calls Bessie's offering, is a symbol of the caring and love of ordinary people. Franny and Zooey's parents are not as intelligent as their children, but they can still offer spiritual love and support. The chicken soup, therefore, is consecrated (holy) because of that fact. The next crucial image is that of Yorick's skull. This image is an allusion to Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. Yorick was the clown and court jester for Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, when Hamlet was a child. Hamlet finds Yorick's skull in the graveyard and remembers him fondly, though he was a minor jester in a court of kings. By using this image, Zooey is telling Franny that she, like him, probably wants to be remembered and loved by his audiences long after death. But before that can happen, Zooey tells Franny, they must respect their audiences whether they like them or not. The Fat Lady is the image that represents this idea. The unlikely image that they conjure in their minds shows that everyone, no matter how ugly or stupid or egotistical, deserves to be acknowledged as a worthwhile human being. People may have their faults, which Franny may hate, but she should not hate the people themselves. Human beings, from the "Fat Lady" to Jesus Christ, are all equally deserving of love.

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