Franny and Zooey

Franny and Zooey Summary and Analysis of Franny Part 1

"Franny" Part 1 Summary:

Lane Coutell waits with several other upper-crust college boys for their dates to arrive by train on a cold Saturday morning. The big football game against Yale is this weekend. He rereads a letter from his girlfriend, Franny. In it, she describes loving his letter and her anticipation of the weekend. She writes that she is reading and loving the Greek poet Sappho, and makes several more declarations of love to him. In a postscript, she says her father's "growth" is benign, and that Lane need not worry about what happened over a recent Friday night - she doesn't think her parents even heard them come in. She concludes by admitting she feels "unintelligent" when she writes to him, and asks if they can have a nice weekend without his analyzing everything and her.

A classmate, Roy Sorenson, interrupts Lane and asks if he understood their reading assignment of the German poet Rilke. Lane says he thinks so. With cigarettes in hand, the boys watch the arriving train. Lane spots Franny, noticing especially her coat. She hugs and kisses him, and asks if he received her letter. After she clarifies which letter, he answers yes, and asks her about the pea-green clothbound book she is carrying. She puts it away and they walk out, with Franny making most of the small talk. He apologizes for not being able to get her a room in the best guest house, but she expresses contentment with what he got, though inwardly she is frustrated by his "ineptness," as when he once allowed another man to take their taxi. Lane tells her the plan to get lunch, and Franny says she's missed him, though she quickly realizes that this is a lie.

In Sickler's, a preferred restaurant of the college intellectuals, Franny and Lane drink martinis. Lane is pleased to be seen with a girl who is not only exceedingly pretty, but doesn't fall too deeply into a collegiate stereotype. Franny notices his satisfaction with this, but she feels guilty for having observed it. Lane, dominating the conversation, speaks about his recent "A" paper that criticized the lack of "testicularity" (or "masculinity," he explains to Franny) of French writer Gustave Flaubert. He says he wants to read it to her, and connects his theory of Flaubert as a "goddam word-squeezer" to modern psychoanalysis. After a silence, he says that his professor wants Lane to publish the paper. Franny says he's talking like a "section man" - a graduate student who takes over class when a professor is out, and invariably criticizes and ruins the author the class is studying, then boasts about his thesis. Lane is hurt, and she apologizes. Franny indecisively orders another round of martinis.

She says she feels "way off" today, and promises to snap out of it soon. She says she's tired of people like the section men, and admits that if she'd had the courage, she wouldn't have returned to school this year. Lane says she's making generalizations, that there are "incompetent" people everywhere, and that her school has two of the best poets in her English Department. She says they're not real poets, then asks to drop the subject. Lane keeps pressing her, and Franny finally says that poets are supposed to "leave something beautiful" with the reader, and that the ones he mentioned only get into your head. Lane counters that a month ago she said she liked one of the two poets, and she admits she does, but that she's "sick of liking peopleŠI wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect." Looking pale, she excuses herself to the bathroom. Lane sits back, all his previous excitement gone. When he spots a classmate in the room, he pretends to look "attractively bored."

"Franny" Part 1 Analysis:

Our introduction to Lane immediately paints him as an egotistical, pretentious, image-conscious student destined to be one of the "section men" Franny describes. He is a poster boy for the bourgeois intellectual elite of the late 1950s/early 60s, smoking cigarettes while wearing his Burberry coat and cashmere muffler. His egotism is his main characteristic; he is interested only in things which pertain directly to him. For example, he doesn't "give a damn" about the lipstick stain on Sorenson's coat lapel, but he takes special pride in the fact that "he was the only one on the platform who really knew Franny's coat," and that he had once kissed her lapel. His modesty is always false; no doubt he believes he completely understands Rilke, and he relishes talking in supposedly humble tones about his Flaubert paper. And while Lane physically stands apart from the other boys at the train station, attempting to assert his individuality, he is the greatest conformist of them all, doing everything he can to look like he belongs (note his pleasure in being seen with Franny, an "unimpeachably right-looking girl," in the restaurant).

The teenaged Freud once wrote that the greatest egotist is the one to whom the thought has never occurred. Lane is a good example of this. When the egotist does turn his attention away from himself, it is generally to criticize. His Flaubert paper is only an exercise in vicious criticism, an attempt to emasculate through literary psychoanalysis a canonized author. In fact, when we use rudimentary psychoanalysis on Lane, it's fairly clear why he feels the need to emasculate. Consider his own lack of "testicularity" in the story about the other man's taking Lane's taxi, or Lane's overall delicate, feminine appearance (his slender fingers) and habits (he drinks martinis) that he compensates for with manly curses. One can almost picture him mentally picking apart the grammatical and spelling errors in Franny's loving, spontaneous letter to him, and we can imagine the excessively formal, cold letters he writes. It's obvious to the reader that Franny, with her insight and empathy, is far more intelligent than Lane will ever be, though he would never admit this (his assuming she does not know the word "testicularity" is a perfect example of this).

With his marriage of egotism and criticism, Lane detaches himself from the world in ultimately dishonest ways. He feigns lack of an expression when the train arrives, and when Franny leaves him for the bathroom. His version of detachment is a model of how not to behave; later in the book, a different, more positive idea of detachment will develop. Franny is also detached, and even dishonest at times, but always with a good reason. She pretends to be happy with Lane's lesser guest house and squeezes his arm with "simulated affection," both to make Lane feel better. Moreover, when she notes Lane's satisfaction in being seen with her, she turns the focus to her guilt for having observed it. Her greatest sensation of guilt comes with her greatest act of self-deception: when she proclaims how much she's missed Lane. She knows she is lying and, as with Holden Caulfield in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, we see that Franny may be dishonest with others, but she is always honest with herself.

This honesty is evident in her desire for a world of beauty and love, one which the section men and the famous poets at her college cannot understand. She is, it seems so far, literally sickened by her destructively analytical surroundings. The green book she carries with her may yield some clues to her state of mind, since she hides it from Lane and especially since Salinger frequently uses the color green to symbolize innocence (note the green ink on Holden's baseball glove and the prostitute's green dress in The Catcher in the Rye, or his short story "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes").