Franny Glass, a twenty-year-old college student, meets her weekend date, Lane Coutell, at the train station. She came to town for the big Yale football game at an unidentified Eastern Ivy League college where Lane is an undergraduate. She greets him enthusiastically, despite his spurious, narcissistic detachment. They immediately go to a trendy restaurant for lunch, where Lane digs into snails and frog legs and Franny leaves her chicken sandwich untouched. They smoke incessantly, while Lane speaks at length and with scarcely veiled pomposity of a recent paper he wrote on Gustave Flaubert. Franny grows paler as she tries to listen attentively. She finally explodes in a hushed rant against pedants, section men, pseudointellectuals, and shallow humanity in general. She tells him that she quit the theater group at school, which was her one great love, because she is so fed up with ego. Feeling undone, she flees to the ladies’ room where, secluded in a vacant stall, she sobs freely for five minutes. She stops abruptly and clutches to her chest a small green book, as if it is her security blanket. She returns to the table determined to apologize and to salvage the weekend, but Lane notices her little book, The Way of the Pilgrim, and engages her in a discussion about it. Trying to appear casual, Franny tells him about the pilgrim’s quest for enlightenment through praying without ceasing. Lane responds with condescending skepticism, which makes Franny angry again. As she again makes her way to the ladies’ room, she faints.
Buddy Glass, the oldest living child of the Glass family and a rather eccentric writer and professor, relates the events of Franny’s return home after her nervous collapse. He was not there, but he tells the story as a sort of “prose home movie” as gleaned from the primary players. Zooey Glass, Franny’s twenty-five-year-old brother, sits in the tub in the Glass house in midtown Manhattan. He reads a...
(The entire section is 798 words.)