Franny is one of the two main characters of the novel, though she is a far more sympathetic figure than her brother, Zooey. She is a 20-year-old college student, a former participant on the radio show "It's a Wise Child" with her six older siblings, a gifted and beautiful actress, and dates Lane Coutell. She seems to miss the influence of Seymour, her eldest, dead brother, the most acutely of all the siblings. Her spiritual breakdown over the world's and her own egotism, and her subsequent use of the incessant Jesus Prayer to save herself, form the spine of the novel.
Zooey is the second youngest Glass child - 25 - and its most natural performer. He is a remarkably handsome television actor who resents the medium he works in, and has an equally bitter outlook towards most people. He has an eloquent tongue and the shrewdest wit of any of the Glass children, which he often uses for hostile purposes, particularly against his mother, Bessie. He also resents the way Bessie and the others revere Buddy and Seymour for their wisdom, though he understands that they are wiser than he is. He counsels Franny on the ways of spirituality, especially of Jesus Christ, but he frequently does so in an abrasive way that alienates her.
Bessie is the mother of the Glass children, a former vaudeville dancer alongside her husband, Les. She stays in the family's Upper East Side apartment building in a Japanese kimono most of the time, nagging her children in various ways. She has an especially tense relationship with Zooey, who mocks her uneducated view of the world. She loves her children dearly but is upset that she cannot understand their brilliant minds, and is wounded by the deaths of two of her sons.
Buddy, the second oldest Glass child, narrates the "Zooey" section of the novel from information he has received from Franny, Zooey, and Bessie. He teaches writing at a girls' college in upstate New York, where he inhabits a small, unelectrified house. He is a deep student of Zen Buddhism, as was J.D. Salinger, and the two share other similarities, notably their prose style, which Buddy himself admits is too "clever."
Lane, Franny's boyfriend, is an egotistical, pretentious, and somewhat effete college student who represents the worst of 1950s bourgeois attitudes. He boasts endlessly about his "A" paper on Flaubert, eats frog's legs and snails, loves being seen with the beautiful Franny, and is completely undeserving of whatever affection Franny has for him.
Franny and Zooey Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Franny and Zooey is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.