Franny and Zooey | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Franny and Zooey | Quotes


I mean not try to analyze everything to death for once, if possible, especially me.

Franny Glass, Franny, Section 1 (Franny's Letter)

This is a postscript to a letter Franny Glass writes to her boyfriend Lane Coutell, whom she plans to visit for a football game the following weekend. It's a good example of Franny's ambivalence toward Lane. Without quite being aware of it, she has gradually been falling out of love with him, and several passages in her letter betray that fact. Franny has become accustomed to being "analyzed" by Lane, and she's beginning to be annoyed by this habit of his.


Everything everybody does is so ... not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily.

Franny Glass, Franny, Section 2 (Lane and Flaubert)

Franny and Lane are having a pregame lunch in a fancy restaurant. Franny is trying to make Lane understand why she finds his friend Wally—and, by extension, the rest of their college-age cohort—so unmemorable. Franny detests conformity and despises nonconformity, which she views as just another version of fitting in. She also hates herself for being so intolerant. Half-consciously, she realizes that talking to Lane is making her physically sick. A modern reader might diagnose Franny as depressed, but this book is set in the 1950s, when that word wasn't commonly used. Franny doesn't know exactly what's wrong with her, but she knows it's serious.


Franny literally jumped ... 'What book?' she said. 'This, you mean?'

Franny Glass, Franny, Section 3 (Discussion about Poetry)

This is Franny's response to Lane's question about her book. Franny is on the brink of an emotional breakdown because she can't bear the world's mediocrity. For some time she's been obsessing over a religious book called The Way of the Pilgrim in the desperate hope that the book's central tenet—"Pray without ceasing"—can keep her sane. Knowing that Lane will belittle the book, she hasn't told him about it—but he has just spotted it in her handbag. Since it's the only book in the bag, Franny's attempt at deception is unintentionally funny. Still, the fact that she doesn't want to talk about it reveals both her increasing distaste for Lane and her anxiety about why the book matters so much to her.


Too goddam long between drinks. To put it crassly.

Lane Coutell, Franny, Section 4 (The Little Green Book)

Overcome by stress and panic, Franny has collapsed in the restaurant and been carried into the manager's office, where Lane is now anxiously bending over her. Lane attributes her anxiety, and the couple's tension, to the fact that it's been a long time since he and Franny had sex. This belief betrays his self-centeredness as well as the fact that nothing Franny has been talking about matters to him.


Her lips began to move, forming soundless words, and they continued to move.

Narrator, Franny, Section 4 (The Little Green Book)

Now alone in the restaurant manager's office, Franny begins silently repeating the prayer she's learned from The Way of the Pilgrim: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." According to that book, endlessly repeating the Jesus Prayer will ultimately help the speaker become one with God. At this point Franny is so desperate that she couldn't stop praying if she tried.


All seven of the children had managed to answer over the air a prodigious number of ... questions.

Narrator, Zooey, Section 1 (All about Buddy)

Franny (now 21) and Zooey Glass (now 25) are the two youngest children in a family of prodigies whose frequent appearances on a radio show called "It's a Wise Child" once brought them a great deal of attention—not all of it positive. Throughout many of his stories, J. D. Salinger portrays the Glass children as being so preternaturally brilliant, so eloquent, and so lovable that they seem almost inhuman. Still, Salinger also makes it clear that the children are prone to neurosis and unhappiness, especially the oldest, Seymour, who committed suicide almost seven years before Franny and Zooey takes place. Because of their maturity and "aplomb," the children have been subjected to extensive psychological examination. Additionally, Seymour and Buddy (the second-oldest Glass son) have imparted an overwhelming amount of religious philosophy to their younger siblings.


Before her, in luxuriant rows, was a host, so to speak, of golden pharmaceuticals.

Narrator, Zooey, Section 2 (Mrs. Glass Visits the Bathroom)

J. D. Salinger enjoys making lists, and his description of the Glass family's medicine cabinet is very funny. The phrase "golden pharmaceuticals" is sarcastic. Advertisers might consider these products to be golden, but they're just the homely objects that can be found in any cabinet. Only the profusion of objects is remarkable. The cabinet is as revealing of the Glasses as any archaeological site, and it's also revealing that after poring over its contents, Mrs. Glass can only find one thing to throw away. Perhaps that's because every object listed belongs, or belonged, to a member of her family.


The poor child's ... crying her eyes out ... and your father wonders if maybe she'd like a tangerine.

Mrs. Glass, Zooey, Section 2 (Mrs. Glass Visits the Bathroom)

J. D. Salinger is known for his comically realistic dialogue, and this passage is a good example. Mrs. Glass is worried about her daughter and exasperated with her husband. At the same time, she's unintentionally funny, and so is the tangerine—a typically quirky Salinger touch. This passage is one of the few times Mr. Glass is mentioned in the book, and it gives readers a small glimpse into his character as well. He's not really in tune with what his children need.


That little book she carried all around the whole house ... is at the whole root of this whole business.

Mrs. Glass, Zooey, Section 3 (Zooey at the Mirror)

The little book Mrs. Glass refers to is Franny's copy of The Way of a Pilgrim. In one way, Mrs. Glass is right: Franny is so obsessed with the book that it is the root of her unhappiness. But the book is just a symptom of Franny's distress. One reason she's unhappy is that all of American culture seems shallow and meaningless to her. This view is partly due to the religious training her older brothers Seymour and Buddy inflicted on her when she and Zooey were too young to process so much information and so many ideas.


The aim ... is to wake everybody up to the need and benefits of saying the Jesus Prayer.

Zooey Glass, Zooey, Section 3 (Zooey at the Mirror)

In the bathroom, Zooey tells Mrs. Glass what both of Franny's (originally Seymour's) "little books" are about. In a very unenlightened way, Zooey is describing works that are supposed to bring their readers enlightenment. But Franny is reading The Way of the Pilgrim to ward off a nervous breakdown, and Zooey objects to her using the book this way. In their own way, both Franny and Zooey are pilgrims trying to find a path through a culture they despise. Unlike the simple pilgrim in the book, the siblings are anxious and unhappy.


If you don't understand Jesus, you can't understand his prayer.

Zooey Glass, Zooey, Section 5 (The "Religious" Section)

Zooey's (and J. D. Salinger's) concept of Jesus is that he was a radical genius whose mission was to convince people that the Kingdom of God exists within each individual. Zooey believes that Franny only partly understands what Jesus was like—that she oversimplifies his true calling. Zooey also finds it inconsistent that Franny despises so many people, since one of Christ's main messages was "Love one another."


I have no ... authority to be speaking up like a seer ... We've had enough seers in this family.

Zooey Glass, Zooey, Section 6 (Zooey on the Phone)

Zooey now regrets the way he's been lecturing his sister. The "seers" in the Glass family were Seymour and Buddy, each of whom was or is suffering in his own way. Zooey believes what his brothers have taught him about religion and philosophy, but he also knows that their obsession with godliness has caused both him and Franny—and Buddy and Seymour—to suffer. He doesn't want to follow in his brothers' footsteps.


An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms.

Zooey Glass, Zooey, Section 6 (Zooey on the Phone)

Zoey understands something Franny doesn't: that she was born to act and that the only way to carry out her God-given mission is to be an actor. He's trying to show her that her attitude toward egotistical people, and her fear that she won't be talented enough, are distractions that keep her from following her true path in life.


I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I ... went on the air again.

Zooey Glass, Zooey, Section 6 (Zooey on the Phone)

Zooey is recalling that when he was about seven, and reluctant to polish his shoes before a radio appearance, Seymour told him to shine his shoes for the Fat Lady. Seymour was speaking metaphorically. The Fat Lady was a stand-in for any unfortunate or luckless person who might be listening to the quiz show and who, like luckier or more privileged listeners—like every human being, in fact—deserved love and respect.


Don't you know who that Fat Lady really is? ... It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.

Zooey Glass, Zooey, Section 6 (Zooey on the Phone)

Zooey has been counseling, lecturing, and bossing Franny for quite some time now—first in person, and then by phone. All his love, sarcasm, advice, counsel, and bullying has been leading up to this message, which is the last thing he says before hanging up the phone. Essentially, he's telling his sister that he, she, and everyone else on earth are worth cherishing—even the annoying Professor Tupper.

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