By Salinger J.D.
By Salinger J.D.
American author J.D. Salinger (1919-2010) is most famous for his 1951 The Catcher in the Rye. After the success of this classic, he devoted his writing to the subject of the Glass family. A big piece of that saga is captured in Franny and Zooey.
The short story Franny was published in The New Yorker in 1955 and the novella Zooey in 1957. The two were published together in a book, in 1961, rising to the top of The New York Times bestseller list.
Salinger draws inspiration from Buddhism and other Eastern religions, which he delved into for his own personally spirituality. Franny and Zooey puts forth a combination of Judeo-Christian and Eastern religions. However, as the narrator tells in the opening of Zooey, this is a story more about love than spirituality.
The book was released as one war concluded and the Cold War resumed. It was a time of immense patriotism and blind reliance on intellectuals. Franny and Zooey offers harsh criticism of such blind respect and conformity.
The 1950s also was prime time for interest in domestic matters. Audiences delighted in hearing about the Glass family as they did family sitcoms on television. Television is also a target in the book. Salinger was known to disrespect television as low brow entertainment.
Some say Salinger put himself in the book as Zooey narrator Buddy. Buddy writes convoluted prose from seclusion. Salinger was a well-known recluse. Salinger was also known to write about young characters who failed to fit into society’s mold.
Franny and Zooey follows two members of the Glass family. In the first story, Franny, the title character visits her boyfriend to attend a sports game. They go to a fancy restaurant, but she is not hungry. She listens to her boyfriend talk about a paper he wrote that he wants Franny to read. Pale, sweating, and chain smoking, she rants against egotism in academia.
Lane, her boyfriend, notices something is patently wrong. She excuses herself to cry in the bathroom. She returns and tells him about a book she is reading where a Russian peasant learns a way to pray incessantly, releasing a capability to “see God”. The method requires one to say the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” One can say it with their lips before it becomes synchronized with their heart. Franny faints in the restaurant at the end of the story.
Zooey opens with Zooey Glass in the bathtub. He is a famous television actor reading a letter from his brother Buddy. In the letter, Buddy explains why he and his other brother Seymour instituted such a rigorous religious education on the younger Zooey and Franny, which could explain why the two younger siblings are not socially well-adjusted.
Zooey talks to Franny, who has returned to the family home. He eventually can enlighten her to a philosophy of respect for all human beings, even if you don’t like them. Their talk can bring Franny some peace by the end of the novel.
Buddy, the narrator of Zooey, introduces the story by saying the following is not necessarily a story of spirituality. Above all, it is a love story, he says. Franny and Zooey appear to hold harsh judgments of others and seem particularly angry.
Zooey calls Franny out on her spiteful verdicts of other people, and she shows how it is in direct contradiction to the meaning behind the Jesus Prayer she is saying incessantly. He shares the wisdom of Seymour, telling Franny that everyone is entitled to respect and love, even if you do not like them.
While the narrator of Zooey insists the book is a love story rather than one about spirituality, there is no doubt spirituality plays a crucial role in Franny and Zooey. Franny is in the midst of a spiritual breakdown. Zooey blames this and their overall confused growth on the rigorous, religious, educational regime administered by their older brothers.
Franny attempts to remedy her crisis by praying incessantly. Zooey clarifies her mission by adding a new component to her system. He introduces the concept of love as the foundation of all spirituality than spans multiple religions.
When Lane tells Franny they will be hanging out with Wally, she does not remember who he is. Lane reminds her that she has met Wally several times before. Franny does not see why Lane should expect her to remember everyone especially when they all run together and act, talk, and dress like everyone else. She adds even people that rebel, or “go bohemian,” end up conforming like everyone else, only in a different way.
Franny and Zooey are referred to as “freaks” several times in the novel. Lane is the book’s prime representation of conformity, thinking he is being different but clearly looking for acceptance.
The Glass children experienced fame at an early age as part of the It’s a Wise Child radio show. These stories are about grown-up child stars. Additionally, Franny and Zooey have come to a point in their lives where they must decide if they want to pursue show business.
Zooey is currently a successful television actor but is increasingly disenchanted with the hackneyed product produced. Franny performs in school plays and enjoys the praise and applause, and at the same time hates the egotism involved. At the end of the story, Zooey encourages Franny to pursue acting.
One time on the set of It’s a Wise Child, Seymour tells Zooey to shine his shoes for the studio audience. Zooey refuses, claiming he does not wish to do so for an audience that is stupid.
Seymour tells Zooey to shine his shoes for the “fat lady.” The idea of the fat lady refers to the every man and woman, or the uneducated and unattractive studio audience. Zooey shares the story with Franny to make the point of the Jesus Prayer is to love and respect everyone, no matter how egotistical or stupid.
The stories of Franny and Zooey are ultimately about family. The Glass family may not have exactly been brought together by two tragic deaths (Seymour’s suicide and Walt’s death in the Army).
Bessie grows frustrated about the family’s inability to help each other when in need. But, as Zooey points out, Franny returns home when she needs help. He assures her that they are not “fishy” people, and there are no ulterior motives with family. He tells Franny to recognize Jesus Christ in the care of their mother, bringing Franny chicken soup.
Franny paints herself in a corner of egotism where one cannot strive for anything without it being influenced by an inflated ego. She admits to egotism herself by enjoying the applause and positive reviews associated with her theater performances.
Buddy tells Zooey that the two older brothers sought to teach Zooey under the philosophy of the Buddhist “no-knowledge” path, which requires one to let go of ego to attain enlightenment. Zooey urges Franny to use her talent of acting, but to do so in a way that exercises the positive part of the ego, which is focused on providing entertainment for others.
The Glass children are all gifted intellectually and spend a lot of time in academia. However, Franny in particular is bothered by the personalities driving the academic experience. She criticizes her professors and section men (grad students that fill in for the teacher) for being pompous egotists, while her classmates are all alike.
Franny criticizes the entire system in general, saying it is just a place to gather knowledge for knowledge’s sake and provides no real answers that lead to wisdom. She says knowledge is just another “treasure” to collect that is no different and material than the collection of wealth or things.
Franny and Zooey are both dissatisfied with their current domains. Franny is unhappy with college life, where the professors are pompous; the students are all stereotypes, and the knowledge does not necessarily lead to wisdom. Zooey is unhappy with the acting world — where the material is cliqued and the people unsavory.
Perhaps this dissatisfaction stems from the fact that they are unique people with unusual life characteristics, including child celebrity and high intelligence. They have been raised to be “freaks,” as Zooey says, and feel frustration with the conformist world that does not see things the same unique way.
Salinger holds distrust for psychoanalysis that shows up several times in Zooey. In the bathroom, Zooey tells his desperate mother not to call a psychoanalyst to help Franny. He warns a psychoanalyst will adjust Franny to what is perceived as “normal”, leaving her either in “a nut ward or…wandering off into some…desert with a burning cross in her hands.”
Later, Salinger mocks psychoanalysis by showing Zooey, smoking a cigar, jokingly pretending to interpret Franny’s dream while she lies on a couch. He then rails against television and says the writers are too influenced by Freud.
The first title character is described as the “languid, sophisticated type.” The stunningly attractive young woman is in the midst of a spiritual breakdown. She is fascinated with the concept of praying incessantly as a way to “see God.” She rants against phonies and egotism to her boyfriend Lane at dinner. She eventually faints in the restaurant. She returns home, and her family tries to help her. Her brother, Zooey Glass, talks to her about her spiritual and social issues. By the end of the stories, he can help her find some peace.
Franny Glass’s boyfriend, Lane is called a phony and a “charm boy” by Zooey. He represents the egotism in academia that Franny does not like. Franny visits Lane and the two go out to dinner, where he orders snails and frog legs. At the restaurant, he talks a lot about a paper he has written and wants Franny to read it.
As Franny descends into her meltdown, Lane continually asks what is wrong with her and challenges her assumptions. Bessie says Lane calls to see how Franny is doing, but Zooey does not believe that he cares.
The sharp-tongued protagonist of Zooey, Zooey Glass is a famous actor who talks to his sister Franny when she retreats home after her meltdown. He shares many of the concerns and hatreds as Franny. Franny describes him as destructive, and Bessie says he makes people he does not like nervous.
After Zooey reduces Franny to tears, Zooey calls Franny from inside the house pretending to be their brother Buddy. Zooey tells Franny to respect and honor all human beings, even if you do not like them. She finds some peace from their conversation.
The matriarch of the Glass family, Bessie is naturally concerned about her daughter Franny. Bessie encourages her children’s pursuit of knowledge, but is not as gifted as they are. She constantly offers her daughter chicken broth to improve her nutrition, but the offers are declined. She is known to always wear an unflattering kimono around the apartment. She grows frustrated that the rest of the family cannot seem to help her keep the family together during hard times. In the book, she takes a lot of abuse from Zooey, whom she has a lengthy conversation with in the bathroom.
The story begins with Lane Coutell waiting for his date to arrive at the train station. It is the weekend of the Yale football game and other men wait for their dates for the same event. He pulls a letter out of his pocket and reads it. In the letter, Franny writes that she dislikes most poets except Sappho. She quotes the poet, calling the words “marvelous”. She repeatedly tells him that she loves him. She asks him if he loves her, saying he did not state so in his last letter. She comments that her father got X-rays back from the hospital, and the growth is not malignant. Lane is interrupted by a classmate named Ray Sorenson, who quizzes him on their assignment Rilke. Lane says he understands most of it, and Ray tells him that he is lucky.
Franny’s train arrives and the two kiss on the platform. Lane asks about a green book she is holding. She says it is nothing and stuffs it into her purse. She hooks her arm in his and the two walk. She talks about the other girls on the train assigning them to various stereotypes.
Lane tells her about the less than luxurious accommodations he lined up. Franny has trouble hiding her contempt over Lane’s ineptness. She remembers a rainy night where Lane let a “horrible man in a dinner jacket” take a taxi away from him.
The two jump into a taxi. She tells him that she has missed him and immediately feels guilty for lying. The two go to Snickler’s, a restaurant popular with intellectual college students.
They sip martinis as Lane enjoys being seen with such an attractive girl. Lane dominates the conversation, talking about a paper he wrote on Flaubert where he received an unexpected “A.”
Lane says the author lacks testicularity, or masculinity. He offers to read the paper to Franny. She says she would love to hear it, but secretly is growing tired of the conversation. She interrupts him by asking for his olive, cutting off the dialogue.
He breaks the silence, saying the professor thinks he should publish the essay. Franny says he sounds like a “section man”. She describes section men as grad students that teach the class when the teacher is out, ruining the material by overanalyzing it. The comparison offends Lane. She apologizes, saying she has been destructive all week. She says she strained to write the letter. Lane reaches for her hand, and she retreats.
She says she has grown tired of her English class, mainly pompous “teardowners”. If she had the guts, she said she would have dropped English, or even school. Lane says she is overgeneralizing. He adds that she is privileged to have two brilliant minds as section men in her department.
Maniliu and Esposito are published poets. Franny says they are not real poets. They are just people who write poems that are published in various places. Franny appears pale. Lane presses her to clarify what constitutes a real poet.
Franny dodges the conversation, complaining of feeling ill. Her forehead is covered in sweat, but Lane does not notice. He presses further. Franny snaps that she doesn’t know what a real poet is, adding that she feels funny and wishes the matter be dropped.
Despite her words, she continues. Poets leave something beautiful. Maniliu and Esposito do not accomplish that. The better ones may leave something that you remember, but that does not make them poets. Lane reminds Franny that she mentioned liking Manlius. She confirms this, adding that she wishes she could meet someone she could respect.
The pale Franny rises with her handbag, excusing herself. Lane is concerned and drills her on her condition. Lane is left alone at the table, sipping his martini and smoking cigarettes. His previous thought of being with the right or “right looking girl” at the right place disappears. He sees someone he knows and changes his composition to that of an “attractively bored” date simply waiting for his date to return from the bathroom.
The large bathroom is unoccupied except for the pale, sickly Franny. She locks herself in a stall and sits down, her hands trembling. She tries to block out everything, sitting stiffly. She holds that position and then breaks down, sobbing loudly and unrestrained for five minutes.
Then, she stops, as suddenly as she started. Her tear-stained face is blank of emotion. She pulls out the green book she was holding when she walked off the train. She gazes at the book in her lap. She raises it to her chest and embraces it for a moment. Then she stuffs it back in her purse. She exits the stall, washes her face with cold water, applies lipstick, combs her hair, and leaves the bathroom.
Looking beautiful, she returns to the table and apologizes. Lane complains that they do not have a lot of time. He sees her bloodshot eyes and asks her if she is ok. Franny lights a cigarette and says she’s feeling great and never felt so “fantastically rocky” in her life. They discuss ordering.
Franny says she is not that hungry and could do with a chicken sandwich rather than the exotic fare. Lane expresses his irritation at Franny’s lack of an appetite. Franny snaps back, saying she cannot work up an appetite just for him. Lane gives up, ordering a chicken sandwich and a glass of milk for Franny and frog legs, snails, and a salad for himself.
Lane says they will be going to the game with a guy name Wally, informing her that she likes Wally. Franny says she does not remember Wally. Lane grows more irritated, reminding her that she has met him about twenty times.
Franny remembers and pleads to Lane not to hate her because she cannot remember a person immediately, especially when they all run together and act, talk, and dress like everyone else.
Franny does not like the words coming out of her mouth and a wave of self hatred takes over her. Her forehead begins to sweat again. She continues, despite hating how catty she sounds. It is not difficult to forget Wally because she sees Wally everywhere. She knows they will gossip, brag, and name-drop. She adds that people of a certain income bracket can name drop all they want as long as they insult the name they are dropping. She stares at the ash tray, not daring to peek up at Lane’s expression. She apologizes, adding that Wally looks like someone who spent last summer in Italy. Lane corrects her; he spent last summer in France.
Franny continues her rant, saying that women all act the same, as well. They all spend glamorous summers doing fascinating things, like bicycling through Wales or working for a magazine or something. She calls these types of activity “tiny and meaningless.” She says people who “go bohemian” end up conforming like everyone else, only in a different way. She feels her forehead and speculates as to whether she is going crazy. Lane comments on how pale she looks as she lights another cigarette. He warns her that she smokes too much. The food arrives. Lane looks up from his plate of snails and asks her if she is okay. Lane encourages her to eat, but she feels sick looking down at her chicken sandwich.
Lane asks her about the play. She informs him that she quit the play and the theater department. Lane is flabbergasted, reminding her of her passion. She says she began to feel like a “nasty little egomaniac.” She continues, elaborating on the arrogance of running around backstage pretending to be so natural and warm to the people visiting backstage. She adds that she had been ashamed to be in some of the plays, saying she would have hated if people she respected attended the plays. Playing Pegeen in Playboy might have been neat if it wasn’t for the person who played the Playboy, who spoiled the play by being “lyrical.”
Lane reminds her that she got terrific reviews. Franny has been talking for a half hour as if she is the only one with any sense or critical ability, he says. Maybe she is wrong, he suggests. Franny calls the actor decent, but to play the Playboy right you have to be a genius. She comments again on how strange she feels.
Lane asks Franny if she thinks she is a genius. Franny is insulted by the question. She says she feels like she is losing her mind and getting sick of her and everybody else’s ego. “I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting,” she says. Lane tells her a psychoanalyst would say she simply afraid of competing.
Franny insists she is afraid she will, in fact, compete. She likes the applause and raves she gets from the theater department, but she is ashamed by it. She declares she is sick of being scared to be an absolute nobody. Lane compassionately offers her a handkerchief to wipe her sweating brow. Franny declines his offer, saying she does not want to dirty the handkerchief. She digs through her purse, searching for tissue and setting objects on the table, including the green book she was holding when she got off the train. Lane asks her about the book.
Franny jumps. She says it is just something she brought to read on the train. Lane asks to take a look. Franny ignores him, stuffing things back into her purse. She changes the subject and talks about a gold swizzle stick that a boy gave her for her birthday. He promised she would always have good luck if she carries it around. She cannot bring herself to throw the pretty thing away. Lane, irritated, brings the conversation back to the book, wondering if it is a secret.
Franny tells him the book is called The Way of the Pilgrim. The professor of a Religion Survey class mentioned the book. Lane asks who wrote the book. Franny says the author is anonymous. All you know about the writer is that he is a 33-year-old Russian peasant in the eighteen-hundreds with a withered arm and a dead wife.
Lane presses her further about the book. Franny says she is not sure if she likes it or not. It’s peculiar. The peasant becomes fascinated with a place in the Bible where it says you should pray incessantly. So, armed with only a knapsack filled with bread and salt, he searches all over Russia for someone to teach him how to pray all the time and what to say when you do. He meets a person called a starets, an advanced religious person who tells him about a book called the Philokalia. The book was written by monks who advocate a method of praying. Lane is focused on his frog legs.
The peasant learns to pray using the advanced method and then tours Russia teaching fascinating people how to do it, as well. Lane makes some comment about smelling like garlic, indicating he is not so intrigued with the book. She says she fell in love with a married couple he meets on his journey. He is greeted by their children who call for him on his walk, telling him their mother loves pilgrims. He goes to their house, where the mother helps him take off his boots and gives him a cup of tea. He stays for dinner. The table is surrounded by the family’s servants. They join the family at dinner because they are “sisters in Christ”.
Franny says she loves that the pilgrim was interested in who these people were. The pilgrim stays the night, teaching the father how to pray in his unique way. The next morning, he moves on to a new adventure. Lane nods and mentions that he would like Franny to read his paper he spoke of earlier. Franny suggests Lane find the book at a library and read it. She would lend hers to him, but it is long overdue. Lane still appears more interested in his dinner. Franny continues, talking about the method the pilgrim learns and teaches.
The starets tells him to use the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” She adds that “mercy” is a tremendously powerful word that can mean many things. As she speaks, she pauses to reflect, looking over Lane’s shoulder. She says one does not even have to have their heart into the practice at first. You can simply say the words with your lips, with no meaning or faith behind it necessary. After awhile, the words become “self-active” and synchronize with your heartbeat. Soon you are praying constantly, changing your whole outlook on life. Franny is pale but enlightened. It makes absolute sense, she says. The Buddhists do the same thing with their chanting of mantras. She gives more examples.
Lane tells her to take it easy and warns her that she is about to burn her fingers with her dwindling cigarette. Franny recognizes his expression and asks what is wrong. Lane asks her if she genuinely believes this stuff. She answers that she merely finds it fascinating and a coincidence that it shows up under multiple philosophies and faiths. She says the result of the practice allows you to see God, adding she is agnostic.
The waiter takes away her untouched chicken sandwich. Lane relaxes, orders coffee, and tells Franny that he loves her. Franny excuses herself. She rushes to the bathroom but faints in front of the bar. She wakes up on a couch in the manager’s office with Lane at her side. Lane is terribly worried. He says they will skip cocktails and the game. He will get her to her accommodations so she can rest. He mentions that he will come to visit and implies they have not been sexual in a long time. Lane leaves to get her some water. Franny is left, staring at the ceiling, her lips moving, “forming soundless words.”
The narrator introduces the following as less of a short story and more of a “prose home movie”. He introduces the characters. The first character he calls the leading lady, who he would describe as the “languid, sophisticated type” (Franny). The other he describes as a “svelte twilight brunette” (Bessie). The “leading man” (Zooey) makes the strongest argument for the narrator to not tell the story, saying it hinges too heavily on mysticism. Instead, the narrator calls it a love story.
All four characters are relatives in the Glass family. The Glass family once consisted of five boys and two girls. The oldest, Seymour, committed suicide while on vacation with his family in Florida. The second oldest is the narrator Buddy. He is referred to in the third person from here on out. Then comes Boo Boo and then the twins Walt and Waker. Walt was killed in the Army. Walker is a Catholic priest, out of the country at a conference at the time of the story. Then comes Zooey and the youngest is Franny.
Zooey is 25 in 1955. He sits in the bath reading a four-year-old letter over and over again. Zooey is described as a small man, who “is barely saved from too- handsomeness…by virtue of one ear’s protruding slightly more than the other.” Zooey is a highly paid and sought-after television actor. All the children have had brushes with show business, notably on a radio show called It’s a Wise Child where the children answered questions from the audience. They gained a reputation as precocious children on the show.
The torn, old letter Zooey reads and rereads is from Buddy. In the letter, Buddy complains that his mother is urging him to remove the phone in New York and install one in his new home in the country. He likes the phone because he shared it with Seymour.
Buddy sends a message from their mother Bessie. She believes Zooey should get his PhD in math so he can have something to fall back on if the acting does not work out. Buddy mentions that he has hiked from school to school, yet to score his BA.
He says there are two reasons why he has not yet graduated. Firstly, he was a snob who did not want a degree when people he does not respect have them. Secondly, he still cannot live up to Seymour, who had his PhD at about an age where other kids are just graduating high school. While sometimes he reflects that he could be loaded with degrees and teaching by now, he ultimately concludes that the decks are stack against professional writers, and “no doubt we all deserve the dark, wordy, academic deaths we all sooner or later die.”
Buddy does not agree with his mother about Zooey requiring a degree for security. He says Zooey would make a well-adjusted actor if Seymour and Buddy had not loaded him with deep reading and religious teachings. Actors seem to do better when they “travel light” intellectually. He adds that even his mother knows Zooey was born an actor. The only question is will he go for a superficial Hollywood career, or for the more intellectual, artful one. He warns him to be careful because the nuisances of literature do not transfer to Hollywood, especially with Zooey’s high demands for beauty.
Buddy writes the letter three years to the day that Seymour killed himself. Buddy recalls going down to Florida to bring back the body. He cries on the plane for five hours. Before the plane landed, he caught the tail end of a story. “They took a pint of pus out of the lovely young body of hers,” the passenger behind him says. He found the story humorous and regrets meeting the widow with a sick grin on his face.
He mentions that he gives a weekly lecture to faculty and undergraduates on Zen and Mahayana Buddhism. Between this, school and work, he has no time to do any elective thinking. He glides closer to the point of the letter, to explain why he and Seymour gave Zooey and Franny so much religious teaching.
He shares an experience that happened that day at the grocery store meat counter. He sees a cute little girl, about four, staring at him. He says she is the prettiest little girl he had ever seen all day and asks if she has any boyfriends. She says two. Buddy asks their names. She answers Bobby and Dorothy.
He also shares a haiku poem found in the hotel room where Seymour shot himself: “The little girl on the plane / who turned her doll’s head around / to look at me.” The little girl and the poem are heavy on his mind and influenced him to write the letter today.
Extreme age differences added complications to the Glass kids’ upbringing. Seymour and Buddy were reluctant to push their favorite literary works on the Franny and Zooey until their minds reached a state of “no-knowledge” or a state of pure consciousness known as satori in Zen Buddhism.
In other words, they hold back on the “lighting effects” of literature, art, science, etc until they are able “to conceive of a state of being where the mind knows the source of all light.” So, the two older brothers drilled their younger siblings on the religious prophets.
He says he worried about Franny and Zooey after Seymour’s death. But he could not return for a year afterward. The girl at the meat counter reminded him that Seymour once told him the purpose of religious study is to unlearn differences such as those between girl and boy, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold. That encounter in the grocery store prompted him to rush home to write this letter. He concludes by telling Zooey to act if he must, but to do it with all his might.
Zooey carefully places the old letter in its envelope and picks up a manuscript to read. His mother knocks on the door, interrupting the melodramatic reading. She asks if she can come in, saying she has something for him. He answers that he is in the tub. Irritated, he pulls the curtain. Bessie says she cannot see how he can stay in the bath tub for so long. She is wearing her trademark kimono, with tools and cigarettes stuffed in the pockets.
Bessie opens the liberally-stocked medicine cabinet to put away a new tube of toothpaste. She asks Zooey if he has talked to his sister. He says he did for two hours the night before. He is growing more and more irritated. She complains about Buddy having no phone, worrying about emergencies. Zooey is extremely rude to his mother. She spots the script on the floor, moving it to a more suitable place. She reads the title: The Heart is an Autumn Hunter. She comments that this is an “unusual” title. Zooey responds harshly. Bessie says Zooey never thinks anything is beautiful or unusual. Zooey mocks Bessie’s taste.
Bessie changes the subject to her worry about Franny. She is frustrated with her husband’s inability to help her. She says Les expects to hear all of the children on the radio again, including the two dead sons. He is stuck in the past, she says. Franny cries all the time and mumbles to herself. She continues to complain that no one in the family can help her when things are going wrong. She worries aloud that Franny does not eat right and reads too many religious books for an impressionable young girl. The two are silent for awhile. Zooey gives her a warning that he will be getting out soon. Bessie contemplates for a moment and then suddenly leaves, saying she will be back.
Bessie returns as Zooey shaves. She asks him if he thinks she should get a hold of Waker (the Catholic Priest brother) to talk to Franny. Zooey does not think it is a brilliant idea, saying Franny’s problem is “nonsectarian.” He insults her intelligence again and she defends herself, revealing the green book as the source of Franny’s problems. She mentions Lane has been calling, incredibly worried about Franny.
At first not remembering who Lane was, Zooey rips on Lane, calling him a fake and a “charm boy”. As soon as he parted ways with Franny, he probably wondered if he could get back to the game in time, according to Zooey. Bessie says Zooey always assumes the worst in people and ulterior motives. She also accuses him of making people he does not like, or love, nervous.
Bessie says that Lane informed her that the source of Franny’s troubles lies in the book she carries around that she got out of the school library. Zooey calls Bessie stupid, saying the book came out of Seymour’s and Buddy’s room. Bessie answers that she does not like to go into that room.
Zooey apologizes and Bessie takes the chance to stab at him. She calls him unkind and starts comparing him to Buddy. Zooey explodes in anger yelling that he is sick of hearing Buddy’s and Seymour’s names. He blames the two brothers for turning Franny and him into “freaks”. He says he cannot even eat without saying a Buddhist prayer.
Bessie nags him to get a haircut and get married. Before she leaves the bathroom, Zooey warns her against calling a psychoanalyst for Franny, reminding her of what one did to Seymour. Zooey explains Franny’s books. Zooey says he must get ready to meet LeSage, his employer. Bessie leaves him alone, after reminiscing of days when the kids were young and happy, and wonders what good knowledge is if it does not make them happy.
Zooey, smoking a cigar, wakes Franny. The living room is decorated with artifacts from the kids’ It’s a Wise Child days. She says she was having a nightmare, in which she was in a pool, being forced to dive down to retrieve a coffee can over and over again. A professor she detests also makes an appearance.
The two talk about Zooey’s career and his dissatisfaction in the scripts he is receiving. He catches her reciting the Jesus Prayer. He says he has an offer to film in France, but he does not want to leave New York. He rants about his tendency to hurt people’s morale. This rant rings true for Franny, who recalls poking at Lane and giving her honest opinion on his paper he was so excited for her to read. Zooey says she should poke at herself rather than others. He says the two are freaks and will not be satisfied until everyone is like them. Franny sees parallels in Zooey’s distaste for phoniness and ego in television with her own rants to Lane at dinner. She curses her inability to censor herself, despite knowing she is unpleasant to be around.
Franny berates college, saying it is just a place to gather knowledge for knowledge’s sake and provides no real answers that lead to wisdom. She says knowledge is just another “treasure” to collect. Zooey shifts to Franny’s saying of the Jesus Prayer. He says collecting spiritual treasure is no different than material or even intellectual treasure. Franny is insulted at Zooey’s assumption that the idea had not already occurred to her. She admits to being just as self-serving as everyone else in her pursuit for spiritual enlightenment. Zooey offers to try to get a hold of Buddy. Franny says she wants to talk to Seymour. Zooey looks out the window and says there are “nice things” in the world, but people get too distracted with their egos to notice.
Zooey makes a speech. He upholds that he does not wish to take the prayer away from her. He says that he once contemplated saying the prayer. But, her episode is hard on the family. Her negative opinion of the people of academia, although maybe correct at times, seems too personal and spiteful. He rips into her, saying she does not understand Jesus and is confusing him with other religions. He says Jesus is the most intelligent person in the Bible because he understands that there is no separation between man and God. Zooey realizes that Franny is sobbing. He apologizes and leaves the room.
Zooey meets his mother in the hallway and tells her to step aside. She wants to know why he is sweating and Franny is crying. He heads straight for Buddy’s and Seymour’s room. He has not been in there for seven years. He reads a few literary and religious quotations written on a board hung on the wall.
The room houses countless books piled in book cases and stacks on the floor. He sits a Seymour’s desk and takes out a stack of shirt-cardboards serving as Seymour’s diary. Zooey reads about Seymour’s 21st birthday. He then sits for about a half hour and picks up the phone, placing a handkerchief over the mouthpiece.
Meanwhile, Franny is declining another bowl of chicken broth from her mother. The phone rings. Bessie answers the phone and returns telling Franny that Buddy is on the phone, and it sounds like he has a cold. Franny answers. Zooey, pretending to be Buddy, asks how she is. She tells him that she is ready to murder Zooey, who is bitter, destructive and talks in circles. Franny eventually figures out who is on the phone.
Zooey tells her to continue with the Jesus Prayer is she wants. He points out that when Franny needed help, she came home. Therefore, she is not looking for a spiritual guru; she is looking to her family for help. She should recognize the holiness in Bessie offering of chicken soup. There are no ulterior motives with family. He tells her that he and Buddy saw her in the play last summer. He praises her performance and encourages her to peruse acting.
He tells her that she should not waste time thinking about the audience. It is none of her business. He recalls a time on the radio where Seymour told him to shine his shoes. Zooey refused because the studio audiences are stupid. Seymour said to shine them for the “Fat Lady”. The Fat Lady represents every person, no matter how stupid or egotistical. And everyone deserves their respect. The Fat Lady is also Jesus Christ.
The two wrap up their conversation. Franny lies on her parents’ bed, readying for sleep. She lies down, staring at the ceiling, with a smile.