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....
(The entire section is 483 words.)