Study Guide

Franny and Zooey Education

By J.D. Salinger


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.

Questions About Education

  1. Is it fair for Zooey to blame so many of his problems (and Franny's problems) on the education Seymour and Buddy gave them when they were kids? How many of these issues really are the result of such an education?
  2. Zooey complains about the cons, but what were the pros, for Franny and Zooey, of the education given by their older brothers?
  3. What does Franny hate so much about the system of higher education? Are her complaints reasonable?
  4. When talking to his mother, Zooey says: "Phooey […] on all white-shoe college boys who edit their campus literary magazines. Give me an honest con man any day" (Zooey.5.31). What does he mean by "honest"? How is it that a con man can be honest while a college boy is not?
  5. Franny's biggest complaint about college is that they amass all this knowledge without using it to attain wisdom. What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? How is wisdom gained? Is wisdom the same thing, or different from, the "no-knowledge" to which Buddy refers in his letter to Zooey?

Chew on This

Franny gains the wisdom at home that she cannot find in college.