Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Manhattan. Borough of New York City that seems to be a place where much is offered. In reality, however, this is not the case. Wintertime has traditionally reflected death, and in the Glass house it has been winter for seven years; Seymour’s death haunts the other characters, who have not yet recovered from his passing. J. D. Salinger knows Manhattan well, having lived there through most of his early publishing life. The fact that he does not go into detail about the city the way he does in Catcher in the Rye (1951) reflects his assertion in this novel that people are more important than places. Franny and Zooey, for the most part, could take place anywhere.
Glass living room
Glass living room. At once homey and forbidding, the Glass living room is a reflection of the Glasses themselves. The house sits a story higher than the school across from it, suggesting the Glasses’ superiority in things intellectual (all the Glass children have been on the quiz show “It’s a Wise Child”). All the furniture is marred in one way or another and does not match, just as Zooey and Franny do not match. Even though it is bright and sunny, the light brings out the worst in the living room (stains from pets, for example). As wonderful as it is outside, Franny and Zooey stay inside as if trying to keep the outside world from crashing in on them.
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Franny and Zooey serves as a fine example of Salinger's penchant for placing the importance of characterization before that of plot. The entire novel takes place over a few hours on two different days and correspondingly is structured in two uneven sections. The stand-alone quality of the two sections is due to the fact that "Franny" first appeared as a short story in The New Yorker in 1955, while "Zooey" appeared in the same publication in 1957. The names of the two sections correspond to the names of the two main characters. Salinger apparently incorporates some autobiographical features into Franny and Zooey, but it should not be termed a "memoir". The introduction in the novel's second part of its apparent narrator, Buddy, and his subsequent disappearance as a named presence in the novel is a type of narrative experimentation. The success of that experiment remains a subject of debate for literary critics.
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Ideas for Group Discussions
Discussion of Franny and Zooey will, by necessity, center on the Glass characters. Beginning with Franny, each Glass sibling should be considered for her/his effect on every other character. Because Mrs. Glass remains such a strong presence, her effect on her children may also be analyzed. Mr. Glass, while present in the apartment during the second part of the novel, never appears; he is heard from in a secondhand manner by way of his wife. This indicates something about his character that also offers a basis for discussion. Those who choose to read all of the Salinger stories focusing on the Glass family may discuss the revelations in other novels that lead to an understanding of Franny and Zooey.
1. Why or why not is Lane, Franny's supposed-boyfriend, a sympathetic character?
2. Why does Franny lie to Lane regarding the origin of the book she carries with her?
3. Defend the realistic nature of Franny's emotional reaction to her reading.
4. Analyze Mrs. Glass's role as a major or minor character, and explain your classification.
5. Defend or dispute Zooey's claim that Seymour and Buddy transformed him and Franny into "freaks," and address the topic of personal responsibility for one's thoughts and actions.
6. Explain your initial reaction to the concept of the Fat Lady.
7. What, if anything, is symbolic about Zooey pretending to be Buddy during his phone call to Franny?...
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The social concerns in Franny and Zooey might be posed in the form of a question that the novel asks, but never quite answers—can long-held ideals of family and religion survive in a cynical mid-twentieth-century America? These concerns represent J.D. Salinger's own, as revealed through his multiple works of highly successful short fiction. Because many of those works center on members of the Glass family and their relationships to one another, the viability of family receives much attention. Within the consideration of family and its usefulness to its individual members, Salinger also emphasizes issues of spirituality. The basic questioning of family and religion leads to an interrogation of how humans choose to react to life's conflicts. Through examples presented by his characters, Salinger offers two basic choices. Through Seymour, the elder Glass brother, Salinger reflects on suicide as a viable choice for those too emotionally fragile to survive life's challenges. Through Franny and her brother Zooey, Salinger reflects on acceptance and endurance as a second choice, a choice that may be buoyed by an embracing of others or the practice of a personal spirituality. He identifies in the younger Glass siblings the various conflicts which overcame Seymour, but which the Glass survivors choose to face and champion. Although many questions regarding the "proper" application of spirituality arise, no pat answers are forthcoming, either to Salinger's characters...
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Salinger is clearly influence by "lost generation" novelists such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. As Fitzgerald's characters were accomplished in repartee, so are Salinger's. Where The Great Gatsby's narrator Nick claims a predilection for telling the truth (1925; see separate entry), so does Salinger's narrator, Buddy. In his omniscience as an unseen narrator who knows all, Buddy's view parallels that of Dr. Eckleberg's huge optometric-advertisement for glasses that are symbolic of God and which oversee all the events occurring in The Great Gatsby. Salinger's fondness for his self-involved characters, and his lack of apology for their larger-than-life egos, also parallels that of Fitzgerald toward his flamboyant, high-society players. Naturally, as a member of the post- Lost Generation, Salinger does not share all of Fitzgerald's concerns, but concerns for the individual person's self-realization exist in works by both authors.
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A number of Salinger's works profile the Glass family. They include the 1953 collection of short stories, Nine Stories (1953), some of which feature the Glasses. The story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" chronicles Seymour's suicide, while "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" reveals Walt's death overseas. Both of those short stories were among the first three by Salinger published in The New Yorker in 1948. In addition, "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" and "Seymour: An Introduction" (1963), both parts of which also originally appeared as short stories in The New Yorker, provide a prequel to Franny and Zooey. In addition, much similarity exists between the four main characters in the Glass family stories and those from Salinger's hugely successful novel about Holden Caulfield and his family, The Catcher in the Rye (1951; see separate entry).
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
French, Warren. J. D. Salinger. New York: Twayne, 1963. One of the few attempts critically to evaluate Salinger’s writing by focusing on its effects on young readers rather than on Salinger’s personal psychological and spiritual underpinnings. The result is an insightful explanation of the portrait of adolescence in Salinger’s work and why it has been so heartily embraced by American youth.
Laser, Marvin, and Norman Fruman. Studies in J. D. Salinger: Reviews, Essays, and Critiques of “The Catcher in the Rye” and Other Fiction. New York: Odyssey Press, 1963. A wonderful and diverse collection of analyses written at the time of Salinger’s publications by some of the most recognized contemporary critics.
Lundquist, James. J. D. Salinger. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1979. A so-called New Criticism analysis that conflates Salinger’s life with the lives of his characters and stories. The thorough chronology is very useful in this context.
Miller, James E., Jr. J. D. Salinger. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1965. Number 51 of a series of pamphlets written on American writers. A concise, succinct, and accessible synopsis of Salinger’s writing.
Ranchan, Som P. “Zooey and Franny” and “Bessie.” In An Adventure in Vedanta (J. D. Salinger’s The Glass...
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