Study Guide

Franny and Zooey Spirituality

By J.D. Salinger


She was wearing a sheared-raccoon coat, and Lane, walking toward her quickly but with a slow face, reasoned to himself, with suppressed excitement, that he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny's coat. He remembered that once, in a borrowed car, after kissing Franny for a half hour or so, he had kissed her coat lapel, as though it were a perfectly desirable, organic extension of the person herself. (Franny.1.9)

This passage reveals Lane's materialism; he confuses Franny with her coat because he so highly values material things.

He didn't get an answer. Franny was staring at the little blotch of sunshine with a special intensity, as if she were considering lying down in it. (Franny.2.29)

This line draws our attention to the setting of "Franny," the inside of a restaurant. Franny is drawn to something natural, as opposed to the artificiality and materialism of the fancy restaurant Lane picked. For more on this, check out our discussion of "Setting."

"The little book in my bag?" Franny said. She watched him disjoint a pair of frogs' legs. Then she took a cigarette from the pack on the table and lit it herself. "Oh, I don't know," she said. "It's something called 'The Way of a Pilgrim.' " She watched Lane eat for a moment. "I got it out of the library. This man that teaches this Religion Survey thing I'm taking this term mentioned it." She dragged on her cigarette. "I've had it out for weeks. I keep forgetting to return it." (Franny.4.5)

Franny hides from Lane the importance of the book to her and even where she got it (Zooey later reveals that she got it from Seymour and Buddy's room). She's not comfortable sharing with him something that is very important to her.

"You haven't touched your goddam sandwich," Lane said suddenly. "You know that?" (Franny.4.18)

Lane, the materialist, attacks his food, while Franny, who is rejecting materialism, refuses to touch hers.

I know the difference between a mystical story and a love story. I say that my current offering isn't a mystical story, or a religiously mystifying story, at all. I say it's a compound, or multiple, love story, pure and complicated. (Zooey.1.2)

Yet what Zooey teaches Franny in the end seems to argue that there is no difference between a love story and a mystical story.

"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. That's my Achilles' heel, and don't you forget it. To me, everything is beautiful. Show me a pink sunset and I'm limp, by God. Anything. 'Peter Pan.' Even before the curtain goes up at 'Peter Pan,' I'm a goddam puddle of tears." (Zooey.4.47)

Zooey continues his thought until it seems he's just sarcastically joking around, but we sense there's some genuine truth here. Zooey does take beauty seriously (as we see later by his reaction at the window, as he watches the dog outside). Read more about this in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory."

"God damn it," he said, "there are nice things in the world – and I mean nice things. We're all such morons to get so sidetracked. Always, always, always referring every goddam thing that happens right back to our lousy little egos." (Zooey.6.83)

Zooey accuses himself and Franny of being guilty of the very sort of egotism that Franny condemns in those around her.

The cardboard that he stopped at had been written on in February, 1938. The handwriting, in blue-lead pencil, was his brother Seymour's:

My twenty-first birthday. Presents, presents, presents. Zooey and the baby, as usual, shopped lower Broadway. They gave me a fine supply of itching powder and a box of three stink bombs. I'm to drop the bombs in the elevator at Columbia or "someplace very crowded" as soon as I get a good chance. (Zooey.7.43-4)

Through their letters and diary entries (and even narration), Buddy and Seymour both seem to have an almost spiritual presence in this story. For more on their roles at mentors, check out "Character Roles."

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