The title characters in Franny and Zooey are a brother and sister who, as the result of their shared upbringing and education, are dealing with the same problems in rather similar ways. Family is somewhat isolating in the sense that both Franny and Zooey Glass can only relate to their siblings, not to anyone outside the Glass family. While family is the source of many problems (Zooey blames his older brothers for his anti-social nature), it is also the solution (Franny can only get help through her spiritual crisis by coming home to speak with her brothers).
Seymour's death has affected Bessie more than any of her children.
Seymour's death has affected Zooey more than Buddy or Franny.
Salinger studied Zen Buddhism extensively, and his interest in Eastern religion, philosophy, and spirituality is reflected in Franny and Zooey. What's so interesting is that Salinger takes concepts that are relatively foreign to his fictional time and place and explores them in this context anyway – Zen meets Christianity meets a college coed. The characters in Franny and Zooey admittedly suffer from their spirituality; their heightened awareness to spiritual concerns prevents them from living a "normal" American life (of materialism and commercialism, Salinger seems to comment). Yet this suffering is necessary to lead to the wisdom or even enlightenment found at the end of the novel.
All the Glass children are trying to fight against materialism, and they all suffer for their efforts.
Franny's crisis is practical, not spiritual.
Franny and Zooey is the story of, among other things, a brother and sister largely dissatisfied with the world around them. Franny's dissatisfaction is focused around her world – college – while Zooey's is centered around his domain – acting. While their frustrations take different targets, both the siblings' cynicism and judgment of the world around them stems from their education. Well-read in philosophy and religion, the Glass children find the world around them to be petty, materialistic, and small. They cannot be satisfied with the world in which they live because they hold themselves and others to impossibly higher standards of intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom.
Franny and Zooey are unlikable characters.
Franny and Zooey are endearing, lovable characters.
Title character Franny Glass has more than a few complaints about the college system. A student herself, Franny finds her professors to be egotistical, grad students to be condescending narcissists, and most of her peers conformist bores (including her boyfriend). The problem with college, she feels, is that it's about trying to amass knowledge for the sake of knowledge – which in her mind is no more noble than trying to amass wealth or fame. Knowledge ought to lead to wisdom – yet there's no discussion or even mention of wisdom on a college campus. This renders the entire system shallow and fruitless.
Franny gains the wisdom at home that she cannot find in college.
Love is a subtle theme in Franny and Zooey; there is no discussion of it explicitly aside from the narrator's cryptic claim that his story "Zooey" is in fact a love story rather than a mystical story. The theme does come cross implicitly in Zooey and Franny's discussion of spirituality. The text's implicit conclusion seems to be that every person, no matter how materialistic or petty or shallow they are, deserves love. This is one interpretation of the way in which "Zooey" is a love story. It is by no means the only one.
Franny and Zooey argues that family love is the strongest kind of love there is.
Though Buddy introduces his story as a love story, rather than a mystical story, it is in fact just the opposite. His introduction is intentionally misleading.
The Glass family members featured in Franny and Zooey are, for the most part, antisocial. Even the text's authorial tone takes on the typical Glass family cynicism. The novel argues that college culture is snobby, materialistic, and pedantic. The main characters feel as though most people are not worth knowing. Still, the novel's ending seems to redeem its judgmental tone; Franny and Zooey Glass conclude that everyone deserves love and respect even if they appear egotistical and shallow.
It is Franny and Zooey's own faults that they cannot acclimate to a normal social environment.
It is Buddy and Seymour's fault that Franny and Zooey can not acclimate to a normal social environment.
Franny and Zooey takes a look at typical American culture in the 1950s through the eyes of those who strongly oppose it. From their vantage point of self-imposed social isolation, siblings Franny and Zooey Glass criticize the egotism, materialism, and shallowness of American culture. Popularized ideas such as Freud's theories of psychotherapy are criticized. The typical American college coed is practically villainized. Commercialism is mocked, and even American education is ridiculed. The novel also takes a look at celebrity – more specifically, child celebrities – and calls into question its possibly detrimental effects.
Franny and Zooey negatively portrays American culture.
Franny and Zooey at first seems to condemn American culture, but in its conclusion portrays it positively.
Franny and Zooey is the story of spiritual and personal exploration during the ever-volatile twenty-something years. Undergrad Franny Glass struggles with academic pretension, religion, her boyfriend, her concerned parents, and her tough-love brother. 25-year-old Zooey Glass addresses his own issues in work and family relationships. Through conversation and argument, the two siblings explore their shared concerns and take careful stock of their character. Both are fundamentally changed in the course of the novel as a result of this exploration.
Franny and Zooey is the story of Franny's spiritual enlightenment.
Though Franny's journey is in the forefront of this novel, Zooey, too, makes a spiritual journey.