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Franny and Zooey

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J. D. Salinger


Preceded by
Nine Stories


0-316-76954-1 (hc)

Originally published

Page count

United States of America

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Media type
Print (hardback and paperback)

Followed by
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

Works by J D Salinger, Novels

10 j d salinger franny and zooey

Franny and Zooey is a book by American author J. D. Salinger which comprises his short story "Franny" and novella Zooey /ˈz./. The two works were published together as a book in 1961, having originally appeared in The New Yorker in 1955 and 1957 respectively. Franny and Zooey, both in their twenties, are the two youngest members of the Glass family, which was a frequent focus of Salinger's writings.


"Franny" takes place in an unnamed college town during the weekend of "the Yale game" and tells of an undergraduate who is becoming disenchanted with the selfishness and inauthenticity she perceives all around her.

Zooey is a somewhat emotionally toughened genius, who at the age of twelve had "a vocabulary on an exact par with Mary Baker Eddy's". While Franny, his younger sister, suffers a spiritual and existential breakdown in their parents' Manhattan living room—leaving Bessie, their mother, deeply concerned—Zooey comes to Franny's aid, offering what he thinks is brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.


The short story concerns Franny's weekend date with her collegiate boyfriend, Lane Coutell. He takes her to a fashionable lunch room, where he is described as “monopolizing” the conversation and trying to impress Franny with his news of receiving a suggestion to publish his latest paper on Flaubert. Franny appears upset, questioning the importance of college education and the worth of Lane's friends. She eats nothing, feels faint, and becomes progressively more uncomfortable talking to Lane. Eventually she excuses herself to visit the restroom, where, after a crying spell, she regains her composure.

She returns to the table, where Lane questions her on the small book she has been carrying. She responds nonchalantly that the book is titled The Way of a Pilgrim and tells the story of how a Russian wanderer learns the power of "praying without ceasing". The Jesus Prayer involves internalizing the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" to a point where, in a manner similar to a Zen koan, it becomes unconscious, almost like a heartbeat. Lane is less interested in the story than in keeping their timetable for the party and football game, though when Franny faints, he tends to her and postpones the weekend's activities. After she wakes, he goes to get a taxi, and leaves Franny alone—practising the act of praying without ceasing.


Zooey, smoking and soaking in a tub, is reading a four-year-old letter from his brother, Buddy. His mother, Bessie, enters the bathroom, and the two have a long discussion, centering upon Bessie's worries about his sister, Franny, who is in a state of emotional collapse. During the conversation, Zooey verbally spars and banters with his mother and repeatedly requests that she leave. Bessie tolerates Zooey's behavior, and simply states that he's becoming more and more like his brother Buddy and wonders what has happened to her children that were once so "sweet and loving".

After Bessie leaves, Zooey gets dressed and goes to the living room, where he finds Franny on the sofa with her cat Bloomberg, and begins speaking with her. After upsetting Franny by questioning her motives for reciting the "Jesus Prayer", Zooey retreats into the former bedroom of his two older brothers, Seymour and Buddy, and reads the back of their door, covered in philosophical quotations. After contemplation, Zooey telephones Franny, pretending to be Buddy. Franny eventually discovers the ruse, but she and Zooey continue to talk. Knowing that Franny reveres their eldest brother, Seymour—the psychologist, spiritual leader, and confidante of the family, who committed suicide years earlier—Zooey shares with her some words of wisdom that Seymour once gave him. By the end of the call, as the fundamental "secret" of Seymour's advice is revealed, Franny seems to find illumination in what Zooey has told her: “there isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s fat lady” and that the “Fat Lady” is Christ himself.

Major themes

Salinger's known interest in eastern religious philosophy such as Zen Buddhism and Hindu Advaita Vedanta are evident throughout the book, particularly in a brief section in the second part that includes quotations from spiritual texts. There is also a discussion of whether the book is a "mystical story" or a "love story" in the introduction to the second section, as speculated by the book's narrator, Buddy Glass (who decides it's the latter). Gerald Rosen, in his short 1977 book Zen in the Art of J. D. Salinger, observes that Franny and Zooey could be interpreted as a modern Zen tale, with the main character Franny progressing over the course of the short story and novella from a state of ignorance to the deep wisdom of enlightenment. Jennifer Dunn, in an essay, mentioned that the “disparity between bright busy surfaces and inner emptiness” found in Franny and Zooey can be read as a metaphor for modern society. Carl Bode, in a Wisconsin University journal, suggested that Salinger, while writing in Franny and Zooey that “the phoney and the genuine equally deserve our love”, found this as an answer to some of his own emotional problems.

Original publication

"Franny" and Zooey were originally published separately in The New Yorker magazine. "Franny" appeared in the magazine in January 1955, and Zooey in May 1957. Salinger published "Franny" and Zooey together as a book in July 1961, through Little, Brown and Company, and dedicated the book to New Yorker editor William Shawn. According to one account, Salinger did not want to imply Franny was pregnant, and added one line of Lane Coutell's dialogue in a futile attempt to eliminate any ambiguity.


The book was very popular with the reading public, spending 25 weeks at the top of The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list in 1961 and 1962, but critics gave it mixed reviews. John Updike felt that Salinger's work was more than adequate. He praised Salinger's characterizations, saying that they "melt indistinguishably together in an impossible radiance of personal beauty and intelligence". He also pointed out that Salinger has a "correctly unctuous and apprehensive tone". But some thought that Salinger shamed himself with this particular piece of work. Janet Malcolm quotes Maxwell Geismar who called it an "appallingly bad story", and George Steiner who even called it "a piece of shapeless self indulgence". More recently, in 2011 Jay McInerney criticized the creation of the "self satisfied Glass family", but also said that the story showed Salinger's "evolving beliefs".

Release details

  • 1961, United States, Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-76954-1, Hardback
  • 1991, United States & Canada, Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-76949-5, Soft cover, Reprint
  • References

    Franny and Zooey Wikipedia

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