Literature Study GuidesFranny And ZooeyFranny Section 1 Frannys Letter Summary

Franny and Zooey | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Franny and Zooey | Franny, Section 1 (Franny's Letter) | Summary


Franny and Zooey is made up of two related stories, with "Zooey" being about three times longer than "Franny." Each story has been subdivided into sections, labeled by plot points, for the purposes of summary and analysis.


"Franny" opens as a college student named Lane Coutell waits for the morning train that will bring his date for a football weekend. It's disappointingly cold for a sunny day, but Lane is waiting on the platform rather than inside the station. He wants to be out of range of the 20 other young men who are also waiting. Reaching into his pocket, he takes out and rereads a letter from his girlfriend, Franny.

The letter is obviously written by an intelligent, well-read, and energetic young woman who's in love with Lane—or so it seems at first. A few details suggest that Franny harbors some ambivalence toward her boyfriend.

She asks Lane "kindly to overlook it" if she misspells anything, then tells him she's taken his advice and is using the dictionary to check her spelling. In other words, she hasn't taken his advice for this particular letter; she's just warned him she may make some mistakes. But if the dictionary does happen to cramp her style, he is to blame.

She tells Lane she loved his recent letter, especially the part about the poet T. S. Eliot. Then, in the next sentence, she says, "I'm beginning to look down on all poets except Sappho."

A few sentences down, Franny says right out that she hates Lane when he's "being hopelessly super-male and retiscent (sp.?)" She follows this with "Anyway I love you ... I love you I love you I love you."

In a postscript to the letter, Franny tells Lane he has her permission to "analyze" why she sounds so dumb when she writes to him. Then: "Let's just have a marvelous time this weekend. I mean, not try to analyze everything to death for once, if possible, especially me."

Hoping to look casual, Lane lights a cigarette and makes himself look expressionless as Franny's train pulls in. He can't hold back an excited wave when he sees her, though, and Franny excitedly waves back. She kisses him and asks a rush of questions. Without answering, Lane asks about the small green book in her hand. "Oh, just something," Franny replies, and stuffs the book into her handbag.

In the taxi from the station, Franny feels a rush of annoyance when Lane tells her he's found a nice boardinghouse room for the weekend rather than the hotel she's been hoping for. Then, feeling guilty "as she thought about that and other things," she squeezes his arm tells him, "I've missed you." Right away she realizes she doesn't mean what she's saying.


Subtly at first, but then more pointedly, the narrator reveals that Lane is a pretentious and self-centered young man. Despite the cold weather, he is outside rather than in the waiting room with the other young men. Perhaps, the reader may think, this is because Lane is an individualist who likes fresh air instead of stuffy, crowded rooms. But Lane is purposely standing just out of range of the other boys on the platform. He's wearing a Burberry coat and a cashmere scarf, both emblems of a proper and attractive young man. But he's reading Franny's letter "with his mouth not quite closed," which makes him sound boorish.

Lane has read Franny's letter several times and is presumably looking forward to her arrival, but he's careful to wipe all the expression off his face as the train pulls in. Here the narrator jabs at him directly. Lane "ought to be issued only a very provisional pass to meet trains." Why wouldn't a young man want his girlfriend to see him smiling at her? The narrator hasn't yet provided enough information to answer this question, but he wants to make sure readers ask it. Lane can't stop himself giving Franny an exuberant wave, but as he walks toward Franny he preserves a "slow face," as if he doesn't care how soon he reaches her. Maybe he wants to keep her off-balance; maybe he thinks it's weak or beneath his dignity to look predictably happy. Whatever the reason, something about Lane's behavior is off.

Readers will notice that Lane rejoices in the sight of Franny's coat—her exterior.

Franny's behavior is what might be expected of a happy girlfriend. Joyfully she hugs and kisses him, then asks him a flurry of questions. The last of these is, "Did you get my letter?" "Which letter?" says Lane. Readers already know that Lane has reread Franny's letter several times. Once again, he's posturing. But in a different way, so is Franny. She seems delighted to see him, but inside she's already impatient with him for not seeing why a boardinghouse is a gloomy place to stash your girlfriend. Immediately she feels guilty for her negative thoughts and then overcompensates for them—a pattern she'll repeat throughout the book.

This seemingly loving pair is out of harmony. Lane doesn't want to reveal his eagerness to see (and have sex with) Franny. Franny behaves ardently to conceal the fact that her love for Lane is cooling. This is suggested in her letter when she says the only poet she doesn't look down on is Sappho. In other words, she looks down on T. S. Eliot—and, by extension, Lane, who wrote so admiringly about the poet in his letter. Sappho is a Greek poet who was known to be a lesbian, so Franny may also be hinting that she's just about done with men.

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