Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 483
Franny is in a state of nervous collapse. She has failed to fit in with the “collegiately dogmatic” atmosphere of schools such as Yale, where her boyfriend, Lane Coutell, pompously presides. After a disastrous weekend with him, in which she lets her disgust with phoniness rule all of her reactions, she returns home to her mother and father in a zombielike state.
Zooey is a successful television actor who still lives with his parents. Although Franny and he are famous for their intellectual abilities, having once been the stars of a popular radio quiz show, he refuses to go on for his Ph.D. As an actor he has freed himself to play any role he likes. It is his way of coping with the family’s high expectations.
It is inevitable, then, that Zooey will confront Franny on home ground. With considerable humor, irony, and mimicry he demonstrates that the superior Glasses have set themselves too far apart from others. In the case of the eldest brother, Seymour, this superior attitude has evidently led to suicide.
Salinger makes Zooey a figure of great authority, for this actor has gone through the struggle which his sister is now experiencing: a quest for a distinct identity that will not cut her off from the society with which she must come to terms if she is to survive. This is a very funny and very wise work of literature.
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 Family). Delhi, India: Ajanta Publications, 1989. An interesting but very narrow reading of his works. Interprets both Salinger’s personal life and his stories in light of the Vedantic vision, which entails a spiritual quest for that universal truth said to be found in all religions.