(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Salinger offers a new look at time-tried themes. While some critics believe that organized religion exists as the main theme of Franny and Zooey, others claim that personal spirituality, with its failures and its successes, dominates. The theme of the American family exists throughout, offering a framework on which discussion of spirituality and religion hang. Through conversations between Franny and her brother Zooey, and between Zooey and their mother, Mrs. Glass, readers may piece together incidents from the family's past that figure into the formula that equates to the Glasses. The highly symbolic nature of the family surname indicates the fragility of its members, who may be shattered by the challenges of their environment. While their attempted emotional support of one another finds basis in an obvious affection the family members share, the glib egoism reflected in their diction, a problem Zooey admits he would like to overcome, presents barriers to honest communication and interchange.

In addition, Salinger emphasizes the American higher educational system as a theme. Franny is a college student at the time of the story, and she comments frequently on the effect of classes and certain professors on her life and thoughts. Zooey remains one of the few Glass siblings who lacks a higher degree; he chooses acting as a career instead. Salinger draws parallels between the actor's life and that of the academician, separating college professors into two...

(The entire section is 574 words.)