Study Guide

Franny and Zooey Visions of America

By J.D. Salinger

Visions of America

The rest were standing around in hatless, smoky little groups of twos and threes and fours inside the heated waiting room, talking in voices that, almost without exception, 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)

The narrator seems to share the same disdain for the typical college student that Franny later expresses.

Lane, who knew Sorenson only slightly but had a vague, categorical aversion to his face and manner, put away his letter and said that he didn't know but that he thought he'd understood most of it. "You're lucky," Sorenson said. "You're a fortunate man." His voice carried with a minimum of vitality, as though he had come over to speak to Lane out of boredom or restiveness, not for any sort of human discourse. (Franny.1.7)

Salinger's interpretation of normal human interaction is rather cynical.

Lane was speaking now as someone does who has been monopolizing conversation for a good quarter of an hour or so and who believes he has just hit a stride where his voice can do absolutely no wrong. (Franny.2.2)

This is the sort of ego that Franny so despises. What is she doing with this guy?

At that moment, though, he chanced to look up from the table and see someone he knew across the room – a classmate, with a date. Lane sat up a bit in his chair and adjusted his expression from that of all-round apprehension and discontent to that of a man whose date has merely gone to the John, leaving him, as dates do, with nothing to do in the meantime but smoke and look bored, preferably attractively bored. (Franny.2.57)

Lane becomes the stereotypical picture of college men, more concerned with how they look and who's looking that with anything of real consequence.

"There's an unwritten law that people in a certain social or financial bracket can name-drop as much as they like just as long as they say something terribly disparaging about the person as soon as they've dropped his name – that he's a bastard or a nymphomaniac or takes dope all the time, or something horrible." (Franny.3.14)

Franny's tone and judgment in this passage are very similar to the author's. Compare this to the passage at the start of "Franny" detailing the group of college men standing around at the train station.

"All I know is I'm losing my mind," Franny said. "I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego. My own and everybody else's. I'm sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting. It's disgusting – it is, it is. I don't care what anybody says." (Franny.3.38)

Franny's view of the majority of people around her is more terrifying on account of her fear of becoming like them.

TINA […] (Looks out window) I hate this rain. Sometimes I see me dead in it.

RICK (quietly): My darling, isn't that a line from "A Farewell to Arms"?

TINA (Turns, furious): Get out of here. Get out! Get out of here before I jump out of this window. Do you hear me?

RICK (grabbing her): Now you listen to me. You beautiful little moron. You adorable, childish, self-dramatizing— (Zooey.4.5-8)

Salinger is careful to illustrate the typical American culture of the day, and it would seem that his tone is somewhat mocking here. This almost reads like a parody of a typical dramatic scene.

"Why? Because he is, that's all. Probably because it's paid off. I can tell you one thing. If he's worried about Franny at all, I'll lay odds it's for the crummiest reasons. He's probably worried because he minded leaving the goddam football game before it was over – worried because he probably showed he minded it and he knows Franny's sharp enough to have noticed. I can just picture the little bastard getting her into a cab and putting her on a train and wondering if he can make it back to the game before the half ended." (Zooey.5.29)

We know from reading "Franny" that Zooey's vision of Lane as a typical, self-absorbed American college guy is accurate.

"You just call in some analyst who's experienced in adjusting people to the joys of television, and Life magazine every Wednesday, and European travel, and the H-Bomb, and Presidential elections, and the front page of the Times, and the responsibilities of the Westport and Oyster Bay Parent-Teacher Association, and God knows what else that's gloriously normal – you just do that, and I swear to you, in not more than a year Franny'll either be in a nut ward or she'll be wandering off into some goddam desert with a burning cross in her hands." (Zooey.5.71)

Zooey makes it clear that Franny is not looking to take up this sort of average, American life. Trying to force her into it would be disastrous.

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