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Franny and Zooey

J.D. Salinger

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Overall Analysis and Themes

Review Quiz

Study Questions

Throughout the "Zooey" section, Bessie keeps mentioning that the painters are coming. Franny and Zooey additionally notice that the new paint smell is sharp, particularly in their parents' bedroom. What significance could this new paint have?

On one level, the painting serves to illustrate the character of Bessie Glass. She mentions the painters because she does not know what to do with them: They are supposed to paint the living room, but Franny has stationed herself there to have her breakdown. Zooey makes fun of Bessie's callous emphasis on the practical, but this is a fundamental part of Bessie's character. While all of her children are living lives of the mind, she is keeping the family and apartment together. After all, in her kimono pockets is every tool she could possibly need. What Zooey might not realize is that she possibly hates this role and desires to be a dramatic, intellectual performer. That might be why she insists on a kimono rather than a plain bathrobe. But, because of her impractical children, she is stuck being the grounded one. Symbolically, the paint is also significant. It represents Franny's rebuilding of herself after her breakdown. Franny's old paint--her spiritual beliefs--were not fundamentally flawed. Instead, she just needed to be reminded of the way she was taught by Seymour. Therefore, the walls of the apartment are not crumbling down, they just need to be repainted. Before repainting, of course, one must strip away the remnants of the old paint, which is what happens during Franny's breakdown. When she is closest to a recovery, in her parents' bedroom, the new paint smell becomes the strongest: She is ready to show a new face to the world.

What does Lane Coutell represent for Franny?

Lane is the kind of intellectual that is beginning to drive Franny mad. He is egotistical: He only wants to talk about himself and his own accomplishments. Franny is sick of this kind of self-centeredness. She wants to be around people who are interested in other people and beauty. Lane seems to represent those who analyze books and tear them apart so much that anything beautiful in them is destroyed. Plus, Lane concerns himself with what other people think about him. As the couple sits in Sickler's, he looks around happily because he feels that he is in the right place with the right girl. Then, when Franny goes to the bathroom, he poses for whomever might be watching. Franny must see this strong desire to appear a certain way as conformity. Lane might not be exactly like everyone else, but he desires to fit into an exact type.

What significance might the name "Glass" have?

The name "Glass" might be highlighting the Glass children's desire to see everything clearly and perceptively. In other words, they would like to be looking glasses for their era and for the human condition. But this desire to understand spirituality and human nature distances them from most people. After all, most people are not as reflective as they are. From this perspective, "Glass" could indicate that between the family and the real world there is a barrier of sorts, which everyone can see through but which is nevertheless present. And, since a "glass" can mean a reflective surface, perhaps J. D. Salinger is commenting that the Glasses are reflecting the truth about their society and culture. Finally, a "glass" can also be a vessel from which to drink. Perhaps the Glasses function as a cup to collect ideas and beliefs for the readers to sample.

Suggested Essay Topics

Discuss the theme of creation and destruction. Which does Franny want out of people? Does she herself create or destroy?

What does the Fat Lady represent? How is she both "everybody" and "Jesus Christ"?

How have the Glass children been affected by having been child stars?

On Seymour and Buddy's wall, Zooey reads, "God instructs the heart, not by ideas but by paints and contradictions." What significance does this quotation have to the story?

Is the "Zooey" section a tale of mysticism or a love story? Also discuss how it might have been the one you do not pick.

Why is it important that Buddy Glass narrates "Zooey"? Why didn't Salinger just start it with Zooey in the bathtub?

Explain the "Jesus prayer" and why Franny wants to try it.

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