Literature Study GuidesFranny And ZooeyFranny Section 3 Discussion About Poetry Summary

Franny and Zooey | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Franny and Zooey | Franny, Section 3 (Discussion about Poetry) | Summary



Franny contradicts Lane. The two professors aren't real poets, just writers whose work turns up in anthologies. Franny is now becoming pale and beginning to sweat. When their discussion begins to look like a serious argument about the nature of poetry, she suddenly dashes to the women's room. There, feeling sick, she cries hard for five minutes. When she stops crying, she digs the little green book out of her handbag and hugs it firmly, as if it can give her strength.

Returning to the table, Franny says she only wants to order a chicken sandwich and a glass of milk. Lane orders snails, frog legs, and a salad. The snails and frog legs are meant to show how sophisticated he is. The narrator has already said that the salad at Sickler's has so much garlic that as a rule, people don't order it unless their date is also having it. Now that their own date seems to be unraveling, Lane doesn't care how garlicky he smells.

He informs Franny that they'll stop by his friend Wally's room for a drink on their way to the stadium. Hating herself, Franny says she's sick of all the Wally-like men she's been stuck with for the past four years. She can predict everything they're going to do, whether it's passing along some gossip or "name-dropping in a terribly quiet, casual voice." It's not just Wally she hates, Franny continues. College girls are just as pretentious and predictable. "Everything everybody does is so ... tiny and meaningless and—sad-making."

Franny breaks off to check whether she has a fever. Her face is now extremely pale. When the food comes, looking at her sandwich nauseates her. Lane asks about the play she's in, but Franny has backed out of the production. In fact, she's quit the whole theater department. Acting was beginning to embarrass her. "I'm just sick of ego, ego, ego," she tells Lane. "My own and everybody else's."

Lane offensively suggests that a good psychiatrist might set Franny straight. Then he holds out his handkerchief. "You're sweating." Franny dumps out her handbag in search of a tissue, and Lane sees the little green book. "What's the book?" he asks again.


Interestingly, Franny is described as stirring her cigarette ashes with "her mouth not quite closed." These are the same words the narrator uses for Lane when he's reading Franny's letter. Presumably J. D. Salinger is not making the point that on Franny, even letting her mouth hang open looks good. He may be underscoring the difference between Lane—whose mouth hangs open because he's metaphorically "drooling" over Franny's letter—and Franny, who's being made increasingly sick by their conversation. It's a small detail, but one worth considering. Salinger revised his work almost obsessively and is unlikely to be repeating himself by accident.

Lane isn't very likable, but he makes good points here. It's not fun being in a fancy restaurant with someone who just wants a chicken sandwich. Franny is using a cliché by calling college "the most incredible farce." She is overgeneralizing. And she's being almost as patronizing as Lane when she says Professors Manlius and Esposito aren't real poets. Lane's not out of line when he asks what she considers a real poet to be. This isn't the Franny he's used to.

Franny herself realizes she's behaving out of character. The conversation with Lane makes her feel sick, but she's angry at herself for needling him. When she rushes off to the restroom and folds herself into a fetal position in one of the stalls, it's because she's overwhelmed by unhappiness. She realizes she's been picking on Lane, but she herself feels under attack. When she hugs the little green book, it's as if she's injecting herself with courage she no longer possesses. When she returns to the table and starts nagging at Lane again, she feels sick with self-hatred.

Over the years, many readers have wondered whether Franny's moodiness and nausea are due to her being pregnant. Salinger was surprised to learn that even his New Yorker editors had drawn that conclusion. He hadn't imagined that possibility, and he didn't want people to misread the story. On the other hand, he didn't want to dictate a response, feeling readers should make up their own minds. Finally he gave Lane two more lines of dialogue: "Too goddam long between drinks. To put it crassly." Salinger hoped readers would understand that Lane was talking about having sex, not about Franny's having missed her period. Unfortunately, many readers misunderstood the new lines as well.

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