Study Guide

Franny and Zooey Analysis

  • Tone

    Judgmental

    Though "Zooey" is narrated by Buddy Glass and "Franny" is – as far as we know – narrated by some uninvolved third person, the style and authorial tone are both essentially continuous throughout. The continuity of the two short stories is part of the reason why they can function effectively as a novel. We can see rather clearly in "Franny" that the author shares his title character's disdain for Lane-like pretension. This is evident even in the first paragraph describing the college boys "standing around […] talking in voices that […] sounded collegiately dogmatic, as though each young man, in his strident, conversational turn, was clearing up, once and for all, some highly controversial issue, one that the outside, non-matriculating world had been bungling, provocatively or not, for centuries" (Franny.1.1).

    In "Zooey," there is no such obvious whipping boy for authorial judgment; instead, the author puts forward his Glass family as the positive counterbalance to what was negatively portrayed in "Franny." According to "Zooey," most of the world is silly and materialistic; but the Glass family is a special exception, to be admired and revered.

  • Genre

    Literary Fiction, Family Drama, Philosophical Literature

    "Franny" introduces the major themes of the novel, but it's in "Zooey" that the family drama really comes in. The majority of the text is taken up by family arguments: first Zooey and his mother, then Zooey and his sister. Even the narrator is another family member, the absent Buddy Glass. Seymour's presence can of course be felt throughout the story (see Seymour's "Character Analysis" for more). The drama is played out in the conversations between the characters, and the plotline driven by dialogue.

    Because of the spiritual nature of Franny's crisis, a good chunk of the text is devoted to religious philosophy. There is a kōan or two (meditative question used in the practice of Zen Buddhism) to be found in Buddy's letter to Zooey (start with the little girl at the supermarket) and again in Zooey's words of advice to his sister (the lady carrying the jug over a hill, the "Fat Lady"). Franny's interest in the Jesus Prayer brings Western philosophy into the mix as well, and the collection of quotations in Buddy and Seymour's bedroom throws in even more philosophical variety.

    Because Salinger is so popularly considered one of the great American short story writers, and because Franny and Zooey is interested more in character and theme than in plot or action, we can also classify this work as good old literary fiction.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Salinger originally published two separate stories – "Franny" in 1955 and "Zooey" in 1957. Each story is named for its protagonist. (See "Character Roles" for a discussion of who is protagonist and why.) The two stories were combined as the novel Franny and Zooey in 1961. From one perspective, the title is just the two stories put together: it is "Franny" and "Zooey." But the composite novel is also very much Franny and Zooey: one continuous story of this brother and sister pair. The tone and style of the novel is consistent, as is the continuation of the plot – Franny begins her crisis in "Franny" and resolves it in "Zooey."

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    In the conclusion of Franny and Zooey, Franny effectively resolves her crisis. As Zooey finishes speaking, we read that "for joy, apparently, it was all Franny could do to hold the phone, even with both hands" (Zooey.8.78). After he hangs up, Franny sits and listens to the dial tone as though it is "extraordinarily beautiful" (Zooey.8.80). (Check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for a discussion on beauty – it seems that Franny has here learned, as her brother did, to appreciate beauty in the world.) Finally, we read that she will eventually fall into "deep, dreamless sleep" (last paragraph). We're left to conclude that Franny is all better.

    But why? What happened? How exactly did she resolve her crisis? All of what Zooey said to Franny – first in the living room and then over the phone – played a part in helping her through this rough patch. His lesson to her is many-sided and complex. We talk about it more in Zooey's "Character Analysis," but in brief, he shows her the hypocrisy inherent in her view of the world and reveals the spirituality and joy that can be found in normal events and in every kind of person. (The "Fat Lady" has a lot to do with it, too – see "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more on this.) The point is that Franny reaches resolution, or enlightenment, or peace – whichever of these interpretations you prefer – through Zooey's guidance.

    What's interesting is that Franny doesn't take her brother's advice to heart when they are in the living room together. Instead, she yells at him to shut up and buries her face sobbing into the couch. So why does he get through to her over the phone?

    Franny's barriers seem to break down when she thinks she is talking to Buddy. She actually responds to Zooey's living room comments, it's just that she thinks she's giving this response to someone else. Remember Zooey's claim that the Glass siblings never converse; rather, they lecture or "hold forth." And he's right; the only way Franny can really have a dialogue with Zooey is by narrating his argument – and then adding her own retort – to a third party.

    Perhaps more significant is the influence of both Buddy and Seymour in this phone conversation. In the living room, Franny told Zooey that she wanted to talk to Seymour on the phone. And in a way, she does. By passing on Seymour's story of the "Fat Lady," Zooey channels his older brother's wisdom to his little sister. And of course, by pretending to be Buddy, he channels him as well. All three of these boys play a role in getting Franny back on track.

    Lastly, remember that "Franny" and "Zooey" were written independently as two short stories. As such, "Franny" has its own 'ending' (though it's now the middle of the composite novel) to discuss. It's interesting to compare the ending of "Franny" with that of "Zooey." They both conclude with Franny lying down and looking up at the ceiling. (Zooey does a fair bit of ceiling-staring himself, which is something interesting to consider.) But compare the final lines from each. In "Franny": "Her lips began to move, forming soundless words, and they continued to move." In "Zooey": "For some minutes, before she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling."

    In the first ending, we gather that Franny is mouthing the words to the Jesus Prayer. In the second, however, she is lying "quiet," which could mean a few different things. Zooey had explained to his mother that, if a person says the prayer enough, he achieves a sort of enlightenment; "The idea, really," he says, "is that sooner or later, completely on its own, the prayer moves from the lips and the head down to a center in the heart and becomes an automatic function in the person, right along with the heartbeat" (Zooey.5.78). This could be what has happened to Franny at the end of the story. She doesn't need to mouth the prayer any more because it's become part of her being.

    Another possibility is that Franny has abandoned the Jesus Prayer. Zooey taught her, by using Seymour's story of the "Fat Lady" and his own ideas on Bessie's consecrated chicken soup (again, see "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory") that Christ is everywhere and that holiness can be found in ordinary objects. Franny may have decided that she doesn't need the Jesus Prayer anymore to feel closer to God or to live a spiritual life.

  • Setting

    Sickler's French Restaurant, near an unnamed College campus; a Manhattan Apartment

    The setting of "Franny" contrasts well with the setting of "Zooey." In the first part of this novel, you've got an antisocial college girl who hates pretension…in a pretentious French restaurant trapped at a table with a boy who epitomizes everything she hates about higher education. Franny is stuck in an uncomfortable environment, and she just doesn't fit in: she orders the "wrong" food; her religious book has no place here, and neither does she. By contrast, in "Zooey," Franny has come home to the place where she belongs and to the people who are like her. This is where she chooses, as Zooey points out, to have her breakdown, and this is where she resolves her crisis.

    We can also consider how confining both of the small-scale settings are for the novel's main characters. Franny is essentially trapped at a small table for two with Lane. There may be a larger room around them, but we don't really hear about it – the setting is the small table, rather than the restaurant (excluding Franny's sob-trip to the bathroom). Likewise, Zooey is stuck in the bathtub while his mother holds down the fort just outside the curtain – another small space, another case of being trapped. Both Franny and Zooey end up feeling isolated from and acting hostile toward the "outsider" with whom they converse. Taken together, the similarly confining settings represent yet another example of the parallel form of these two stories.

  • Writing Style

    A verbal stunt pilot at his best

    Though "Zooey" is narrated by Buddy Glass and "Franny" is – as far as we know – narrated by some uninvolved third person, the style and tone are both essentially continuous throughout, which is part of the reason why the two stories together can function effectively as a novel. Both stories reveal the show-offy style for which Salinger has often been criticized. Buddy's claim that he and his family "speak a kind of esoteric, family language, a sort of semantic geometry in which the shortest distance between any two points is a fullish circle" is a great example, as is his assertion that "the cards are stacked (quite properly, I imagine) against all professional aesthetes, and no doubt we all deserve the dark, wordy, academic deaths we all sooner or later die" (Zooey.1.3, Z.3.3).

  • Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

    Food

    We start to pick up on the importance of food about halfway through "Franny," when Lane and Franny order lunch at Sickler's. Lane orders a sophisticated French meal: salad, snails, and frogs' legs. Franny, to her date's dismay, orders a fairly ordinary chicken sandwich and glass of milk. ("This is going to be a real little doll of a weekend," Lane interjects, "a chicken sandwich, for God's sake" [F.3.9].) This is yet another demonstration of the differences between these two. Lane is concerned with appearances – being seen in the right place with the right kind of girl and eating the right kind of food – and Franny couldn't care less.

    Once their dinner finally arrives, Lane focuses on his food and eats every bite. Meanwhile, Franny talks about her religious books and doesn't touch her lunch. Salinger emphasizes the contrast in passages like this one:

    "All he carries with him is this knapsack filled with bread and salt. Then he meets this person called a starets – some sort of terribly advanced religious person – and the starets tells him about a book called the Thilokalia.' "Which apparently was written by a group of terribly advanced monks who sort of advocated this really incredible method of praying."

    "Hold still," Lane said to a pair of frogs' legs.

    "Anyway, so the pilgrim learns how to pray the way these very mystical persons say you should – I mean he keeps at it till he's perfected it and everything. Then he goes on walking all over Russia, meeting all kinds of absolutely marvelous people and telling them how to pray by this incredible method. I mean that's really the whole book."

    "I hate to mention it, but I'm going to reek of garlic," Lane said
    . (Franny.4.9-12)

    Franny's refusal to touch her own food has a touch of spiritual asceticism to it; in her quest to shun materialism, she has gone so far as to not eat at all. This asceticism carries into "Zooey," where Franny holes up in the living room couch and refuses her mother's chicken soup.

    Speaking of chicken soup, it's mentioned about a dozen times in "Zooey." Franny's brother sure has some interesting things to say about his mother's cooking, namely:

    "You don't even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup – which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse. So just tell me, just tell me, buddy. […] How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose?" (Zooey.8.61)

    Using food as a symbol, Zooey explains to his sister that the spiritual life she seeks is closer to home than she imagined. Just as later, with the "Fat Lady," Zooey teaches that love and respect is owed to everyone and not just to religious gurus. Franny has been looking for God in books and asceticism, but in fact spirituality is all around – even in a cup of chicken soup. Remember Zooey's claim that his spot on the living room rug was holy, because that's where he kept his rabbits? More of the same idea. According to Zooey, holiness and spirituality can be found in the smallest of everyday actions or items. Even the dachshund outside the window, reuniting with its master, takes on a spiritual tinge in Zooey's eyes.

    Beauty

    Franny and Zooey, for all their cynicism, both know how to appreciate beauty and artistry in the world around them. Franny's admiration for great literature – her reaction to the Ancient Greek poet Sappho, for instance – reveals a genuine humility on her part, one we might miss in the midst of all her judgment and complaining. We start to see that what really bothers her about the "section men," the graduate students who can wax purple about literature in front of undergraduates, isn't just their arrogance, but their lack of appreciation for beautiful work. She complains that they "knock" and "ruin" the great writers for their students (Franny.2.23). This is in part Franny's complaint – that the real beauty of literary genius can be missed or destroyed.

    Then there's her issue with so-called "poets":

    "I know this much, is all," Franny said. "If you're a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you're supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you're talking about don't leave a single, solitary thing beautiful." (Franny.2.51)

    For Franny, art is about beauty, not about showing off or being a brainiac. To create beauty, then, an artist or writer has to step away from his own ego, and focus on the work instead of himself. In Franny's opinion, guys like Lane are just too narcissistic to do this, and as a result their work isn't genuinely beautifully – in this particular case, she argues, it isn't even real poetry.

    The idea of artistic beauty comes up again in Buddy's letter to his brother Zooey. He worries that Zooey's expectations of the theatre are unreasonably high – that he expects too much artistic beauty from a medium that can not provide it. He writes:

    "Have you ever seen a really beautiful production of, say, The Cherry Orchard? Don't say you have. Nobody has. You may have seen "inspired" productions, "competent" productions, but never anything beautiful. Never one where Chekhov's talent is matched, nuance for nuance, idiosyncrasy for idiosyncrasy, by every soul onstage. You worry hell out of me, Zooey. […] I know how much you demand from a thing, you little bastard. And I've had the hellish experience of sitting next to you at the theatre. I can so clearly see you demanding something from the performing arts that just isn't residual there. For heaven's sake, be careful." (Zooey.3.5)

    Since Franny maintains the same high expectations (for the theatre, for poetry, for college classes), we can apply Buddy's warning to her character as well as to Zooey's. Both the young Glass siblings suffer from their high demands of art and literature – it is one tendency that contributes to their general dislike of people and judgmental attitude towards others.

    Yet it's also a tendency that keeps them from sliding too far into pessimism. Zooey's ability to recognize beauty anchors him, as when he looks outside the window while speaking with Franny and sees a dachshund reuniting with its master after a brief separation:

    The joy of reunion, for both, was immense. The dachshund gave a little yelp, then cringed forward, shimmying with ecstasy, till his mistress, shouting something at him, stepped hurriedly over the wire guard surrounding the tree and picked him up. She said a number of words of praise to him, in the private argot of the game, then put him down and picked up his leash, and damn it," [Zooey] said, "there are nice things in the world – and I mean nice things. We're all such morons to get so sidetracked." (Zooey.6.83)

    Zooey's reaction to this scene is a fundamental part of the advice he will later give Franny over the phone; we'll talk about that in "What's Up With the Ending?" For now, if you're interested in exploring this idea further, spend some time with these passages and let us know what you think:

    • "What? Who doesn't? Exactly what don't I think isn't beautiful?" A minor groundswell sounded behind the shower curtain, as though a rather delinquent porpoise were suddenly at play. "Listen, I don't care what you say about my race, creed, or religion, Fatty, but don't tell me I'm not sensitive to beauty." (Zooey.4.47)

    • Franny took in her breath slightly but continued to hold the phone to her ear. A dial tone, of course, followed the formal break in the connection. She appeared to find it extraordinarily beautiful to listen to, rather as if it were the best possible substitute for the primordial silence itself. (Zooey.8.80).

    • "[Buddy] said that a man should be able to lie at the bottom of a hill with his throat cut, slowly bleeding to death, and if a pretty girl or an old woman should pass by with a beautiful jug balanced perfectly on the top of her head, he should be able to raise himself up on one arm and see the jug safely over the top of the hill." (Zooey.6.87)

    • "He had a theory, Walt, that the religious life, and all the agony that goes with it, is just something God sicks on people who have the gall to accuse Him of having created an ugly world." (Zooey.6.87)

    Perspiration

    You've got serious amounts of sweat in both "Franny" and "Zooey," so there's probably something going on here (other than a overactive gland gene in the Glass family). It sort of creeps up on us in "Franny" through a series of hints in the text:

    • There was a faint glisten of perspiration high on Franny's forehead. It might only have meant that the room was too warm, or that her stomach was upset, or that the Martinis were too potent; in any case, Lane didn't seem to notice it. (Franny.2.48)

    • She stood for a moment – rather as though it were a rendezvous point of some kind – in the middle of the tiled floor. Her brow was beaded with perspiration now, her mouth was slackly open, and she was still paler than she had been in the dining room. (Franny.3.1)

    • Franny made her voice stop. It sounded to her cavilling and bitchy, and she felt a wave of self-hatred that, quite literally, made her forehead begin to perspire again. (Franny.3.14)

    • And finally, because it's gotten so obvious that even Captain Oblivious Lane Coutell notices, we have:

    • The waiter, who was not a young man, seemed to look for an instant at her pallor and damp brow, then bowed and left.

      "You want to use this a second?" Lane said abruptly. He was holding out a folded, white handkerchief. His voice sounded sympathetic, kind, in spite of some perverse attempt to make it sound matter-of-fact.

      "Why? Do I need it?"

      "You're sweating. Not sweating, but I mean your forehead's perspiring quite a bit."
      (Franny.3.40-44)
    The exact same thing happens in "Zooey," except this time, it's Zooey who is sweating quite unreasonably. Consider the following examples of his perspiring brow:
    • Zooey abruptly raised himself up to a sitting position. "I just took a bath, and I'm sweating like a pig," he commented. (Zooey.6.49)

    • He frowned in the direction of the school roof; then, with his fingertips, pressed some perspiration away from his forehead. (Zooey.6.57)

    • Zooey abruptly placed his hands over his now quite damp face, left them there for an instant, then removed them. (Zooey.6.127)

    • He suddenly sat up, shot forward, with an almost calisthenic-like swiftness, to look at Franny. His shirt was, in the familiar phrase, wringing wet. (Zooey.6.127)

    • He wiped his brow briefly with the palm of his hand, put the hand into his hip pocket to dry it. (Zooey.6.129)

    • "What is that? Perspiration?" she asked. Without waiting for a reply, she took Zooey by the arm and led him – almost swept him, as if he were as light as a broom – into the daylight coming out of her freshly painted bedroom. "It is perspiration." Her tone couldn't have held more wonder and censure if Zooey's pores had been exuding crude oil. "What in the world have you been doing? You just had a bath. What have you been doing?" (Zooey.7.1)
    As you can see, Salinger isn't keeping this sweat business very subtle. And Mrs. Glass's question at the end here – "What have you been doing?" – is really what we should be asking of both Franny and Zooey's sweat-drenched conversations. When Franny perspires at the restaurant with Lane, it happens while she rants and rails against college, professors, students, ego, and conformity. To understate it, she's getting herself really worked up here.

    Zooey does exactly the same thing. Go back and read again his conversation with Franny in the living room – this is the scene where we get all these mentions of his perspiration. Just like his sister did with Lane, Zooey works himself up – into a state of physical duress – while "holding forth," as he puts it, about college, religion, and the Jesus Prayer.

    In "Characters" we talk about the idea of a spiritual journey, for Franny and also, perhaps, for Zooey. Throughout the course of this novel, both undergo spiritual trials and learn from their efforts. This whole perspiration thing is great evidence for that theory – it supports the idea that Franny and Zooey are taxing themselves.

    Even though they might appear to just be talking, they're actually struggling, emotionally, spiritually, physically, with some pretty weighty issues. The fact that Salinger uses the same symbol – sweat – for both Franny and Zooey, just reinforces that both siblings are struggling through, or have at one time dealt with, similar crises. It supports the idea we discuss in "Characters" – that Zooey's struggle in "Zooey" is actually parallel to Franny's struggle in "Franny."

    The Painters

    Throughout "Zooey," Bessie worries about getting Franny out of the living room so the painters can get in there to do the walls. The entire apartment is being repainted – in other words, change is in the air in the Glass house. Remember that Franny undergoes a significant transformation at the end of the novel; it's fitting, then, that the physical setting is transformed along with her.

    Early in the story, we worry that Franny won't be able to resolve her crisis, that she, like the walls of her apartment, just isn't prepared. ("The Glasses' living room was about as unready to have its walls repainted as a room can be" (Zooey.6.1).) But by the end of the text, we find that both Franny and the walls have been "repainted," in one way or another:

    Although there was nothing markedly peculiar about her gait as she moved through the hall […] she was nonetheless very peculiarly transformed as she moved. She appeared, vividly, to grow younger with each step. Possibly long halls, […] plus the smell of fresh paint, plus newspapers underfoot – possibly the sum of all these things was equal, for her, to a new doll carriage. In any case, by the time she reached her parents' bedroom door her handsome tailored tie-silk dressing gown – the emblem, perhaps, of all that is dormitorially chic and fatale – looked as if it had been changed into a small child's woolen bathrobe. (Zooey.8.6)

    The "Fat Lady" Story

    The "Fat Lady" is a story Seymour told both Franny and Zooey when they were younger. Zooey brings it up over the phone to Franny at the very end of the novel. When Zooey was a child celebrity on "It's a Wise Child," he refused to shine his shoes since he thought the people running the show didn't deserve any respect. Seymour told him to shine his shoes for the Fat Lady, and for some reason, says Zooey, it made sense. Franny chimes in that Seymour told her the same thing – to be funny for the Fat Lady – and that it made sense to her, too.

    Fortunately, Zooey interprets this cryptic story for us. Take a look:

    "I'll tell you a terrible secret – Are you listening to me? There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. […] Don't you know that goddam secret yet? And don't you know – listen to me, now – don't you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy." (Zooey.8.77)

    This is very similar to Zooey's "chicken soup for the soul" lesson: spirituality is everywhere, even in the people Franny might find pretentious. Zooey's earlier claim that Franny shouldn't make things personal is reinforced here. According to Zooey, she shouldn't hate professor Tuppet, because Christ lives in Professor Tupper just as he lives in everyone. It's fitting that this lesson came from Seymour – it's almost like Franny's oldest and wisest brother is speaking to her through Zooey.

  • Narrator Point of View

    Third Person (Omniscient) and First Person (Peripheral Narrator) who pretends to be Third Person

    Let's start with "Franny." The narrator is some unknown third party observing Franny and Lane's rather tense date. What's interesting about this narration is that when the text gives us information on the characters, the narrator often dodges omniscience and guesses at the characters' feelings based on appearance. If the narrator were truly omniscient, he or she could just go into the characters' heads. Example: "Lane watched her for a moment with mounting irritation. Quite probably, he resented and feared any signs of detachment in a girl he was seriously dating" (Franny.2.34). That "quite probably" is the key phrase here. You'll find that this sort of "omniscience-dodging" is a hallmark of Salinger's short stories.

    Of course, the far more interesting point of view to discuss is Buddy's narration of "Zooey." We talk a lot in this Shmoop guide about how insular the Glass family is, how closed off these siblings are from the rest of the world, how alike they are and how they're really only understood by one another. It makes sense, then, that only a Glass could narrate a Glass family story – no one else would understand or be privy to it in the first place.

    Choosing Buddy as the narrator also provides the opportunity for some of that "literary exhibitionism" (to borrow a term from The New Yorker) for which Salinger is so well known. To place Buddy as the narrator is to severely complicate the story and to add dimensions to our interpretations of it. As a tiny example, consider the layering going on in the bathtub scene: Buddy tells the story of Zooey reading a letter written by Buddy in which is a haiku composed by Seymour. Or consider the phone conversation at the end of the story: Buddy narrates Zooey who's pretending to be Buddy while Franny repeats what Zooey said to her earlier that night. The boundaries between these Glass siblings are being blurred – where does one end and the next begin? It's a fitting question, considering that Seymour's ideas have been appropriated by his younger siblings, and Franny is now re-living the same "act-or-not-to-act" crisis that Zooey underwent four years earlier.

    • Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

      "Franny" does not fit any of the Booker plots, since it lacks the trademark paired stages of "improvement" and "worsening" that characterize basically all of Booker's descriptions. However, we can apply the formula to "Zooey," which fits the Rebirth plot. Note, however, that the Booker plots are intended to revolve around the story's protagonist. Zooey is the most likely protagonist of "Zooey," but the Booker plot that fits focuses on Franny's transformation. This is a long-winded way of saying that perhaps Booker plots may not be the most helpful way of analyzing these two stories.

      "Zooey": Falling Stage

      Franny comes home to have her breakdown.

      Booker writes that in this stage, the hero lies under the shadow of something "dark" that may "spring entirely from within the hero's own personality." That fits the bill here with Franny; her torment seems to be self-inflicted.

      "Zooey": Recession Stage

      Not present in "Zooey."

      This is the stage where the dark power seems to recede a bit; this doesn't happen here. Franny remains in crisis-mode.

      "Zooey": Imprisonment Stage

      Zooey and Bessie discuss the severity of Franny's illness.

      Zooey makes it clear that this is no passing matter; he, too, still feels the after-effects of the education the two of them received from their older brothers at a young age. It sounds like Franny will be dealing with this issue for quite some time. He also vetoes what seems to be a potential fix: psychotherapy.

      "Zooey": Nightmare Stage

      Zooey talks with his sister, and she gets worse.

      Far from helping Franny, Zooey seems to really send her over the edge. It looks like he's trying for tough love, but it would seem that this tactic backfires.

      "Zooey": Rebirth Stage

      Franny talks with "Buddy" over the phone.

      Franny is essentially "saved" through this phone conversation, though exactly who does the saving (Zooey? Buddy? Seymour?) is subject to debate.

    • Plot Analysis

      Note: Because Salinger wrote "Franny" and "Zooey" as separate stories, each has a plot that is complete in and of itself. Because of this, we chose to analyze the plot of each story separately. As an exercise, you could always look at the novel as a whole and determine the different plot stages this second way. Let us know if you discover anything interesting.

      "Franny": Initial Situation

      Lane waits for Franny on the train platform.

      We get enough background info to know that these two are together. We also start disliking Lane. The author actually sets us up to take Franny's side by exaggerating and caricaturizing Lane's arrogant qualities.

      "Franny": Conflict

      Franny doesn't really love Lane, and in fact dislikes everything he represents.

      And that will sure throw a monkey wrench into your relationship. It soon becomes clear that Franny is no ordinary college gal. She's having some sort of personal crisis, and Lane is too self-absorbed and materialistic to notice.

      "Franny": Complication

      This little green book…

      When Franny goes into the bathroom and sobs her eyes out while clutching this tiny book, we know we're dealing with more than typical relationship problems. There's a spiritual/religious element to consider, too, which makes for our complication.

      "Franny": Climax

      Franny explains her religious books to Lane..

      We've been building toward this moment since the start of the story in the sense that this mysterious little book has been mysteriously popping up all over the place with no explanation (or even title). We know it matters, because of all the foreshadowing, but we don't really know what it is – until this moment. It's also fitting that this explanation is at the center of the story's plotline, since it was the impetus for Franny's breakdown in the first place.

      "Franny": Suspense

      Franny passes out.

      A collapsing faint makes for good suspense in any tale. Why did she pass out? Will she be OK?

      "Franny": Denouement

      Franny wakes up.

      Apparently she's undernourished, but other than that, all systems are go. All that suspenseful worry for nothing.

      "Franny": Conclusion

      Franny seems to be saying the Jesus Prayer.

      As we suspected, that little book Franny was carrying around was no incidental paperweight. She's clearly taking this stuff seriously, and we conclude that it has much to do with her dissatisfaction with college life and her relationship problems with Lane.

      "Zooey": Initial Situation

      Zooey in the bathtub with Buddy's letter.

      Putting the "author's introduction" aside, the real story begins with Zooey, taking a bath. We get all the background info we need about the Glass family via Buddy's letter, his narration, and informative footnote.

      "Zooey": Conflict

      Mrs. Glass enters.

      The conflict has mostly to do with Mrs. Glass's request that her son speak with Franny. Since the novel as a whole is the story of Franny's spiritual crisis and eventual resolution, the conflict in "Zooey" has to do with his role in resolving this central crisis.

      "Zooey": Complication

      Zooey and Franny in the living room.

      Zooey does try to talk his sister out of it – but he ends up hurting more than helping. The plot is moved forward as the central crisis is now even further from resolution.

      "Zooey": Climax

      Seymour's "Fat Lady" and Franny's epiphany.

      The climax of the story is the moment when Franny snaps out of it already. She has a spiritual epiphany while talking with Zooey, which we can detect in her manner and movements. She can't even hold the phone on account of the joy she's feeling. This is the moment we've been building toward in "Zooey" but also in Franny and Zooey as a whole.

      "Zooey": Suspense

      N/A in this story.

      No suspense stage here. Since we already know that Franny is out of crisis-mode, we're not too worried about her spiritual or physical well-being. We're just ready to move right into the denouement and conclusion, which, as you'll see in your text, come in immediately after the climax.

      "Zooey": Denouement

      Franny sits listening to the dial tone.

      The brevity of this stage betrays its intensity. There is a serenity and beauty to be found in just this short single passage, "A dial tone, of course, followed the formal break in the connection. She appeared to find it extraordinarily beautiful to listen to, rather as if it were the best possible substitute for the primordial silence itself. But she seemed to know, too, when to stop listening to it, as if all of what little or much wisdom there is in the world were suddenly hers" (Zooey.8.80). Franny has found peace.

      "Zooey": Conclusion

      Franny lays on the bed quietly.

      "Quietly" is the key word here. Compare this conclusion to that of "Franny," when she lies on the floor mouthing the words of the Jesus Prayer. There are a few different ways to interpret this, and we talk about them in "What's Up With the Ending?" What we do know, either way, is that Franny's crisis has been resolved.

    • Three Act Plot Analysis

      Note: Because Salinger wrote "Franny" and "Zooey" as separate stories, each has a plot that is complete in and of itself. Because of this, we chose to analyze the plot of each story separately. As an exercise, you could always look at the novel as a whole and determine the different plot stages this second way. Let us know if you discover anything interesting.

      "Franny": Act I

      Franny and Lane meet at the train station; the two of them bicker over lunch. Franny goes into the bathroom and sobs.

      "Franny": Act II

      Franny comes back to the table and eventually explains to Lane about the religious book she's been reading.

      "Franny": Act III

      Franny leaves the table again and collapses by the bar. The story ends with her mouthing the words to the Jesus Prayer.

      "Zooey": Act I

      Zooey and his mother converse twice, in the bathroom. She encourages him to talk to his sister.

      "Zooey": Act II

      Zooey and Franny debate in the living room; Franny ends up in tears.

      "Zooey": Act III

      Zooey makes a phone call to Franny pretending to be their brother Buddy. Franny's crisis is effectively over by the end of the chat.