Study Guide

Franny and Zooey Family

By J.D. Salinger


Lane himself lit a cigarette as the train pulled in. Then, like so many people, who, perhaps, ought to be issued only a very probational pass to meet trains, he tried to empty his face of all expression that might quite simply, perhaps even beautifully, reveal how he felt about the arriving person. (Franny.1.8)

Lane's reticence in interacting with Franny is contrasted with her family's genuine, at times overbearing, attempts to help her in "Zooey."

"They're not," Franny said. "That's partly what's so awful. I mean they're not real poets. They're just people that write poems that get published and anthologized all over the place, but they're not poets." (Franny.2.44)

We find out, in other Glass family stories, that Franny's brother Seymour was a poet. We have to think that her definition of a "real poet" was largely influenced by Seymour's own thinking on the matter.

"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)

Franny and her brother Zooey both discuss beauty with great care and attention.

"I'm sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I respect." (Franny.2.53)

You can start to see why some people find the Glass family to be incredibly judgmental.

"And the worst part was I was usually sort of ashamed to be in the plays I was in. Especially in summer stock." She looked at Lane. "And I had good parts, so don't look at me that way. It wasn't that. It was just that I would've been ashamed if, say, anybody I respected – my brothers, for example – came and heard me deliver some of the lines I had to say. I used to write certain people and tell them not to come." (Franny.3.30)

Franny earlier claimed that she had a hard time meeting people she could respect, and this is the only time she mentions her brothers. She clearly esteems them more highly than anyone else in her life.

"Against my better judgment, I feel certain that somewhere very near here – the first house down the road, maybe – there's a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody's having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body." (Zooey.3.6)

This is similar to Zooey's later sentiment when he watches the dog outside his window reunite with his master. Both brothers have recognized that there is humor, beauty, and joy in the world, despite their personal tragedies and endless cynicism.

THE last, the under, page of the four-year-old letter was stained a sort of off-cordovan color, and it was torn in two places along the folds. Zooey, finished reading, treated it with some little care as he put the letter back into page-one order. (Zooey.4.1)

This letter shows that, four years ago, Zooey was struggling with the same decisions that Franny now faces.

Whatever her taste in television-play titles, or her aesthetics in general, a flicker came into her eyes – no more than a flicker, but a flicker – of connoisseurlike, if perverse, relish for her youngest, and only handsome, son's style of bullying. For a split second, it displaced the look of all-round wear and, plainly, specific worry that had been on her face since she entered the bathroom. (Zooey.4.46)

Here we see that Zooey's comments are just teasing. The author makes sure we don't dislike his character for the way he talks to his mother.

"You either take to somebody or you don't. If you do, then you do all the talking and nobody can even get a word in edgewise. If you don't like somebody – which is most of the time – then you just sit around like death itself and let the person talk themself into a hole. I've seen you do it."

Zooey turned full around to look at his mother. He turned around and looked at her, in this instance, in precisely the same way that, at one time or another, in one year or another, all his brothers and sisters (and especially his brothers) had turned around and looked at her. Not just with objective wonder at the rising of a truth, fragmentary or not, up through what often seemed to be an impenetrable mass of prejudices, clichés, and bromides. But with admiration, affection, and, not least, gratitude. (Zooey.5.32-3).

Zooey looks at his mother with gratitude because she understands him in a way that no one outside their family ever could. Read Bessie's "Character Analysis" for more.