We start off with a description of the setting. It's a Saturday morning on the weekend of the Yale game, and the weather is "overcoat weather, not just topcoat weather" (Franny.1.1).
About twenty men are waiting at the train station for their dates to arrive, but only six or seven are waiting out on the cold platform.
The men who chose to stay in the heated waiting room have formed conversational groups where each of them tries to sound smart.
Lane Coutell, wearing a Burberry raincoat, is one of the six or seven standing on the platform. He stands outside the conversational zone of the other boys.
After a moment, he absently takes a typewritten letter out of his jacket pocket. It's clearly been read many times. He reads it again.
It is a love letter from a girl named Franny, conveying her excitement at being able to see him on Saturday.
Lane is halfway through reading the letter when a classmate named Sorenson interrupts him to ask a question about Rilke.
Sorenson takes out a cigarette. As he does so, Lane notices a faded lipstick streak on Sorenson's coat lapel. Lane doesn't mention it.
The train arrives.
The door to the waiting room opens and the boys stream out to collect their dates.
Lane lights a cigarette and changes his face to mask his real emotions.
Lane spots Franny immediately when he spots her coat. He waves his arm frantically.
Franny kisses him passionately, but the kiss ends awkwardly. She asks if he received her letter.
Lane plays it cool as he collects her bags. He asks about the small pea-green book she is carrying. Franny dodges the question.
She takes his arm and does most of the talking as they walk out of the station.
Franny is irritated when Lane tells her that he has found a cozy place for her to spend the night. She is reminded of a night in New York when Lane stood out in the rain trying to get them a taxi and then looked at her resentfully when he couldn't get one.
The two of them get into a cab.
Lane gives the driver directions to the place where Franny is staying, in order to drop off her bags and then have lunch before the game.
Franny tells Lane that she's missed him. But as soon as the words are out, she realizes they are a lie.
Roughly an hour later the two of them are sitting in a fashionable restaurant called Sickler's and drinking martinis.
Lane takes a sip of his drink and looks around the room, pleased to be seen with a good-looking girl at a fashionable restaurant. Franny notices the look, feels guilty for noticing it, and resolves to try to be nice and pay attention to Lane.
He has been talking forever. Franny has to clear her throat before she speaks.
Lane is talking about a paper he has just written on Flaubert, and how his teacher thought it was so brilliant that he should publish it. He tells her that if they get a chance over the weekend, he'll read it to her.
Franny asks if she can eat his olive. He looks at her resentfully for asking. It turns out she doesn't actually want it. She lights a cigarette.
Lane continues talking about his paper, and criticizing some really great writers in the process. Franny tells him that he's talking like a section man.
She explains that a section man is someone who enjoys taking over a class in a professor's absence for the sole purpose of demonstrating his own brilliance and ruining perfectly good writers for everyone.
Lane is not pleased with the comparison.
Franny apologizes. She tells him she's felt destructive all week, then admits she had to strain to write her letter to him.
The waiter comes to collect their glasses. After some hemming and hawing, Franny requests another martini.
Franny is playing with her cigarette ashes; Lane is irritated.
Franny promises she will snap out of it soon, then tells Lane that she thinks college is a joke.
Lane pushes back. He tells her two of the country's best poets work in her English Department.
Franny tells him they're not real poets, they're just guys who publish poetry. Her face pales.
Their martinis arrive.
Lane continues pushing her. He asks her to define a real poet.
Franny tells him that real poets should leave something beautiful behind. She tells Lane that she's sick of liking people; she wants to meet someone she could respect.
She excuses herself to go to the bathroom.
Lane sits at the table. He is irritated until he sees a classmate, at which point he adjusts his expression to "look bored, preferably attractively bored."
Franny walks into the large ladies' room, picks the most anonymous-looking stall, goes in, and cries for a good five minutes. She takes the small green book out of her purse and hugs it to her chest.
She walks out of the stall, refreshes her makeup, and walks back to the table.
Lane asks if she is OK. Franny replies that she is, and then lights a cigarette.
Lane asks if she is ready to order. She tells him that all she wants is a chicken sandwich and a glass of milk.
Lane orders Franny's request and then orders snails, frogs' legs, and a salad for himself. He resents that Franny ordered something like a chicken sandwich at a fancy French restaurant. He looks at his watch and tells her he was hoping to drive to the stadium with Wally Campbell.
Franny says she doesn't know Wally.
Lane gets impatient.
Franny tells him not to hate her. She starts to sweat as she launches into a critique of Wally Campbell. She tells Lane that she's seen Wally Campbells everywhere for the last four years. She says Wally probably vacationed in Italy over the summer.
Lane corrects her. Wally was in France last summer.
Franny lights another cigarette as she rails against conformity, then rails against bohemia for its rejection of conformity. She ends by saying she must be crazy.
Lane looks at her and tells her she is pale.
Franny lights another cigarette as Lane digs into his snails.
Franny feels nauseous when she looks at her chicken sandwich. She doesn't touch it.
Lane asks her how the play is coming along; Franny tells him that she's quit acting. She admits it made her feel like an egomaniac all the time.
Lane continues to question her until Franny tells him she is losing her mind. She says she is sick of ego – her own and everyone else's.
Lane asks if she's just afraid to compete.
Franny tells him it's the opposite; she's afraid she will compete and become just like everybody else. She wishes she had the courage to be nobody. Her teeth start chattering.
The waiter serves Lane his frogs' legs and salad, then asks Franny if she would like to change her order. She still hasn't touched her meal. Franny declines.
Lane offers her his handkerchief as she is perspiring. Franny removes some items from her handbag and finds some Kleenex to blot her forehead.
Lane asks her about the book, which turns out to be one of the items she removed from her purse to look for a tissue.
Franny jumps and plays it cool. She tells Lane instead about a swizzle stick she's been carrying in her purse, which some corny boy once gave her as a present.
Lane starts eating his frogs' legs. Franny lights another cigarette and finally explains about the book.
She tells Lane that the book is from the library and it deals with a Russian peasant in the 1800s who wanted to learn the meaning of praying without ceasing.
Lane wrestles with his frogs' legs and appears not to be listening.
According to Franny, the Russian peasant packs up a bag and travels around telling people the secret behind praying without stopping.
Lane expresses his hope that Franny has enough time to look at his paper.
Franny tells him he might like this religious book.
Lane asks if she wants her butter, then points out that she hasn't touched her food.
Franny explains the method of praying without ceasing to Lane. A wise religious person told the peasant to say the Jesus Prayer over and over again. In time, the prayer becomes self-active and synchronizes to the person's heartbeats, affecting the person's entire outlook on life.
Lane finishes his food and lights a cigarette.
Franny says the wonderful part of it is that any name of God has this same self-active power. She cites a few other religions – Buddhism, for instance, before Lane warns her that she is about to burn her hand with her cigarette.
Lane asks if she actually believes in this prayer stuff.
Franny denies belief or disbelief as she lights another cigarette. She claims to be more interested in the recurring phenomena of God's name possessing such incredible power.
Lane asks what, exactly, the result of synchronization is supposed to be.
She tells him you get to see God.
The waiter takes away their dishes, including Franny's untouched sandwich.
Lane asks if she wants dessert or coffee. Franny declines as Lane orders a coffee while noting they don't have much time.
He tells her he loves her.
Franny excuses herself again.
She takes the same route to the bathroom but then stops at a small cocktail bar and collapses.
Franny regains consciousness almost five minutes later. She is lying on a couch in the manager's office; Lane is hovering next to her.
She wants to know how she got there. It turns out Lane and the bartender carried her into the office.
Franny asks about the cocktail party and the game. Lane tells her to forget about it, that she should rest in her room and then later tonight he'll try and sneak in to see her.
Franny doesn't reply.
Lane alludes to how long it's been since they've gotten to have sex.
Franny asks for some water.
Lane tells her he will send someone in with water, then pay the check and get a cab for the two of them.
She agrees, Lane leaves, and Franny lies alone, staring at the ceiling as her lips form soundless words and "continue to move" (last paragraph).