Brief Synopsis: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Franny and Zooey is divided into two sections: Franny, and Zooey. The novel begins with the Franny section where Lane, Franny’s boyfriend, is waiting for her at a train station. Upon arrival, the two go to a restaurant where Franny does nothing but criticize almost everything and anyone talked about. Soon after, she takes a bathroom break where we truly start to see her mental state, as she cries in the stall while holding a book, for no apparent reason. After returning to Lane at their table, another uncomfortable conversation begins and is ended just as Lane questions Franny’s book. As a result, Franny gets up to go to the restroom again only to faint by the bar on the way there.
The Zooey section of the novel begins very confusing to the reader, as it has nothing to do with the previous section of Franny. It introduces us to a totally new character, Zooey Glass, who is an actor. Zooey is busy reading a letter in the bathtub when his mother enters and begins to speak of Franny. It is at this time in which the connection that Franny and Zooey are siblings is made. The conversation between the two wanders into several topics, including Franny being back from college, the father ignoring problems, as well as Lane and how concerned he is for Franny. At this point, we also learn more about this strange book of Franny’s. Apparently, it is a religious book regarding a peasant trying to find God. We also find out that it was retrieved by Franny from her dead brother Seymore’s room. This information adds a greater concern for Franny, for Seymore, her dead brother, studied the book as well and died by committing suicide.
The plot now begins to involve Zooey and Franny more, and less of Bessie, the mother. Zooey goes to the livingroom, where Franny is sleeping, and wakes her to straighten the situation their mother is concerned about. Franny herself realizes that the incident with Lane was all her fault and also discovers how she picks on everyone she meets. Zooey tries to emphasize the fault of Franny’s ways by informing her that she hates others for wanting material or intellectual treasures, yet she does not hate herself for wanting spiritual treasures. A fascinating conversation begins between the two about how all Franny wants is peace, enlightenment, and to know Jesus, and Zooey tries to prove to her that she has no clue who Jesus is. Before Zooey leaves Franny, he emphasizes that the point of the little book and the Jesus prayer within it is to be enlightened and not to put oneself into a false cozy world, which is what Franny has been doing. At this point, Zooey leaves Franny and goes into his brother’s old room. Inside Seymore and Buddy’s room he looks around and finally he makes a phone call.
As if out of nowhere, Zooey’s involvement now stops and the story continues with Franny and Bessie. A phone rings and Bessie answers it, saying it is for Franny. Apparently Buddy wishes to speak to Franny. After some discussion, Franny realizes that it is actually Zooey and she and Zooey have another conversation.
The story concludes with Franny finally realizing that in order for her to be enlightened and be with Jesus she must love and not hate all of the people she has been criticizing. As it turns out, her entire attitude which arose after starting with this new book of hers was just the opposite effect it should have had, and only now does she realize it.
There are several themes running throughout the novel. One of the main themes is death, and for some reason, the characters seem to use this theme a little too often. It is as though it is always on the minds of everyone even if they do not directly talk about it. Even the description of Mrs. Glass, a nurturing mother is that of her wearing a “pre-notification of death” uniform. When Buddy is talked of, Zooey brings up how Buddy would not “[die] in any woods” when nothing of the sort was mentioned earlier. Franny too has these ideas of death