Literature Study GuidesFranny And ZooeyFranny Section 2 Lane And Flaubert Summary

Franny and Zooey | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Franny and Zooey | Franny, Section 2 (Lane and Flaubert) | Summary



The scene opens in a small, pretentious restaurant called Sickler's where Franny and Lane are having prelunch martinis. Lane, who's been monopolizing the conversation, now announces, "To put it crudely, the thing you could say [Flaubert] lacks is testicularity." He's obviously proud of himself for having come up with such a fresh, candid term, but Franny pretends she doesn't know what the word means, forcing Lane to substitute "masculinity." Lane is boasting about a paper he wrote on Flaubert and "very closely following the trend of his own conversation." He slips in the fact that he got "a goddam 'A' on it in letters about six feet high." Polite but unimpressed, Franny praises her martini. Lane tells her he'll try to read her the paper if there's time. Franny feigns pleasure at this prospect.

Lane continues his swaggering monologue, announcing that none of the "really good boys" like Shakespeare and Tolstoy were "word-squeezers" like Flaubert. He believes Franny's listening intently, but instead she asks if he's going to eat the olive in his martini. Lane is briefly irritated, but then redoubles his boasting by saying his professor wants him to publish the Flaubert essay somewhere.

Again Franny interrupts, but this time with the distinctly hostile remark that Lane sounds like a section man. Piqued, Lane asks what the hell is wrong with her. Franny apologizes, saying she's felt destructive all week. When Lane points out that her letter to him wasn't so "goddam destructive," Franny tells him she had to strain to write it.

Now Lane is in a genuinely bad mood, mostly because he's worried that he won't get to sleep with Franny that weekend. "I'll snap out of this in a minute," Franny promises. Instead, she continues complaining. She says she'd quit majoring in English if she weren't in the honors program. The department, she says, is full of pedants and "conceited little tearer-downers." Possibly suspecting she's secretly referring to him, Lane tells her she's overgeneralizing. The English department at her school has two of the best poets in the country.


Sickler's Restaurant is aptly named: Franny feels increasingly sick the longer she's there. The narrator seems to feel some disdain for the place. This is where "the intellectual fringe" of college students eat—the pretentious students who prefer snails (small, show-off bites) to steak (manly, satisfying food). The narrator points out that Lane is happy at "finding himself (he must have been sure no one could dispute) in the right place." And it's not that he's in the right place with the right girl. Rather, he's with "an unimpeachably right-looking girl." Again, Lane is thinking not about Franny but about the impression the two of them are making on others. Franny knows this, feels guilty for knowing it, and "sentence[s] herself" to listen intently to what Lane is saying.

Lane and Franny smoke virtually nonstop. Cigarettes become like dialogue in this book. As critic Janet Malcom points out, "No other writer has made so much of Americans lighting up ... As we listen to [the characters] talk, we follow the fortunes of their cigarettes." Readers will find cigarettes are even more meaningful in "Zooey."

It is clear the narrator overtly dislikes Lane, and it's clear why. Lane loves hearing himself talk. He's proud at having come up with the suggestive word "testicularity" when "masculinity" would have done just as well. His word choice is revealing, not just because it's pretentious but because it suggests that what Lane is really thinking about is having sex with Franny. His suggestion that he has the paper in his room and might read it to her underscores the same point. He actually believes it would be fun for Franny to hear him read a college French paper, and more importantly, reading it would give him the chance to be alone with her in his room. And he's not content to leave things there: he has to brag about how astute he is to have noticed that Flaubert—unlike Shakespeare and the other "really good boys"—was "neurotically attached to the mot juste" (just the right word).

There's something patronizing about Lane's calling the greatest writers in Western culture "really good boys," which is why it's satisfying when Franny's only response to his brilliant speech is, "You going to eat your olive, or what?" Again Franny is aware that she's annoyed him, and again she overcompensates, munching too eagerly on the olive and then trying to placate Lane by taking one of his cigarettes. Her subtext is, "It was babyish of me to ask for your olive, so I'll atone by taking one of your sophisticated cigarettes and letting you light it for me, thereby putting you back in control."

For modern readers accustomed to smoke-free public spaces, the number of cigarettes that appear in Franny and Zooey may be surprising—not that the book's characters are alone in the habit. The book was first published in 1961. At that time, about 50 percent of all men aged 21–24 were cigarette smokers; the figure was about 30 percent for women of the same age. Even now, about a third of all U.S. college students use tobacco in some form—mostly cigarettes.

Not content to pass judgment on Flaubert, Lane makes himself even less likable when he brags that his professor wants him to get the essay published. (By now, the narrator is no longer hinting: he's openly describing what makes Lane annoying.) Lane comes across as both faux modest and faux exhausted, and Franny is quick to call him on it. She could hardly have picked a more annoying comparison than a section man, a "little" graduate student who shows off by criticizing good writers. The reader isn't sorry to see her lash out at Lane this way.

On the other hand, Franny and Lane have been dating for some time. She must have heard him talk this way often, yet she still managed to fall in love with him and stay in love for months. It's not surprising that Lane lashes back; he wasn't expecting their meeting to go this way.

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