Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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.)

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Franny and Zooey is actually a compilation of two long stories first published separately in The New Yorker, and it indicates an increasing tendency of Salinger to create stories more as vehicles for the expression of religious and philosophical ideas than as pieces of dramatic fiction. The first story, “Franny,” describes the emotional collapse of the youngest member of the Glass family, several other members of which appear repeatedly in Salinger’s work.

Franny Glass, an honors student in English and drama at a New England women’s college, goes to visit her boyfriend Lane at his Ivy League school on the weekend of the Yale game. Lane takes Franny to a fashionable restaurant for lunch, but as soon as they sit down she begins criticizing English professors, poets, actors, and almost everyone she and Lane know. When Lane seeks an explanation for her sudden peevishness, Franny begins talking about a book she has been reading called The Way of a Pilgrim, in which a nineteenth century Russian peasant learns to “pray without ceasing” by discovering the secret of the “Jesus Prayer.” Lane dismisses the story as “mumbo jumbo,” whereupon Franny leaves the table and collapses in the middle of the restaurant floor. At the end of the story, Franny is lying in the manager’s office staring at the ceiling, “her lips . . . forming soundless words”—evidently practicing the Jesus Prayer.

“Zooey” picks up Franny’s story at the Glass family home, where she has been brought to recuperate in the care of her mother, Bessie, and brother Zooey. Zooey is five years older than Franny, and both he and Franny, as well as their five older siblings, were regular contestants as children on a radio quiz show called It’s a Wise Child. Both were also influenced by their older brothers Seymour and Buddy to study a wide variety of religious and philosophical literature at a very early age....

(The entire section is 798 words.)