Franny and Zooey

Franny and Zooey Summary and Analysis of Franny Part 2

"Franny" Part 2 Summary:

In the empty restroom, Franny, perspiring and very pale, enters the furthest stall and locks it. She sits down in a cramped position, cries for five minutes, then stops suddenly. She takes out her green book, puts it on her lap, presses it to her chest, then returns it to her bag. She freshens her appearance and walks out of the bathroom looking stunning. She apologizes to Lane for her delay. He asks if she is all right; she replies that she is now. She says she's not hungry and wants only a chicken sandwich and a glass of milk, which annoys Lane. He orders frog's legs and snails, then tells her about the plans to go to the game in his friend Wally Campbell's car. She says she doesn't know who he is, which bothers him as she's met him several times. She apologizes for not being able to remember, "Especially when they look like everybody else, and talk and dress like everybody else." She immediately regrets her criticism, though she continues describing how predictable the Wally Campbells of the world can be, such as the way they name-drop. She says that those who "go bohemian" also conform, just in a different way.

Franny wonders if she's going crazy, and Lane tells her that she looks very pale. Their food arrives. Lane tells her he's been worried about her the last few weeks, but she tells him to eat his snails. He tells her to eat, but when she looks at her sandwich she becomes nauseated. Lane asks her how her play is, but she says she quit it and the theatre department. She says acting made her feel like an "egomaniac," and that she was embarrassed to be in some of the plays. They argue about the leading man she played against in "Playboy of the Western World" in summer stock; she thinks he was too lyrical, while Lane believes if the critics thought he was good, then he was. She says she's sick of ego. Lane asks if she's afraid of competing. She says she's not, but she's afraid she "will" compete, which is why she quit theatre. The waiter brings Lane's frog's legs and salad, and asks if Franny wants to send back her untouched sandwich, an offer she declines. She sweats more, and Lane asks if she wants to use his handkerchief. She roots through her handbag, bringing out items, to find a tissue.

Lane spots her book and asks what it is. Franny nervously says she just brought it for the train ride, and puts it back. She puts away her other items, and talks about the gold-plated swizzle stick which she can't bear to throw away. Lane presses her to talk about the book. She reveals it's called The Way of the Pilgrim, that her religion professor mentioned it, and that she took it out of the library and keeps forgetting to return it. She summarizes the book, which an anonymous 33-year-old Russian peasant wrote in the 19th-century. It starts with the peasant's wanting to know what the Bible's command to "pray incessantly" means. He searches throughout Russia for the answer, and is directed to a religious text called the "Philokalia" which explains an advanced method of prayer. He perfects the method, then continues walking and spreading the word. Franny says that sums up the book, then describes a religious couple the pilgrim meets whom she loves.

Lane says he wants to show Franny his paper on Flaubert, then ignores her recommendation that he read the book. She describes the pilgrim's method of praying, which uses the Jesus Prayer: "'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.'" The word "mercy," she explains, is important since it has so many meanings. After repeating the prayer for a long time, it becomes "self-active" and synchronizes with the person's heartbeat, becoming a truly incessant prayer, and mystically purifies the person's outlook. As Franny describes this, she becomes less and less aware of Lane's presence. She continues explaining the prayer; one does not need to have faith in the beginning, for the prayer takes care of itself through pure repetition. She relates this feature to the Nembutsu sects of Buddhism and to other religions whose practitioners repeat their word for "God." Lane is skeptical, and asks if Franny really believes in it. She ignores the question and says she simply finds it a fascinating coincidence that all these religions preach repetition of a mantra. Lane asks what the result is of the prayer, and Franny says one gets to see God.

The waiter takes away Franny's sandwich. Lane orders coffee and critiques the prayer, and the religions which have incessant praying, for not taking psychology into account. He says he loves Franny, and she excuses herself to go to the bathroom. On the way there, she faints by the bar. She awakens five minutes later in the manager's office, dazed. Lane is concerned, and tells her not to worry about making the game when she asks about it. He tells her to rest at the guest house, then says maybe he can find a back staircase to visit her. He asks her "how long it's been," then realizes it was "that Friday night" last month. He tells her he'll have someone get her water, and he'll hail a cab. He leaves, and Franny's lips repetitively form "soundless words."

"Franny" Part 2 Analysis:

First, to clear up some longstanding confusion regarding Franny's fainting: when "Franny" was originally published as a short story in The New Yorker in January, 1955, many readers assumed she fainted as a result of her pregnancy. While Lane does mention "that Friday night" as the last time they had sex (which Franny referred to in her letter), such an explanation offers too clear-cut and logical a reason for her fainting, and distracts from the real cause: Franny's spiritual crisis.

And a crisis it is, for Franny has reached a breaking point with the egotistical world. It is clear why the pilgrim's prayer appeals to her. She detests egotism above all else, and the prayer is means of detaching oneself, of losing ego. By chanting the name of God, the supplicant focuses only on God, not only himself. Incessant praying, however, is not confined to one religion since, as Franny notes, making it, for her, a deeper form of spirituality. In particular, she comments that the Nembutsu sects of Buddhism also use incessant praying. Salinger was a deep student of Buddhism, and strains of its central tenet - detachment from personal concerns - show up even in 1951's The Catcher in the Rye and in his earlier short stories. This kind of detachment - which Franny herself seems to experience while describing the prayer, losing herself in mystical thought while looking past Lane and his mundane concerns with snail-eating - is completely opposite from Lane's brand of detachment. He separates himself from the outside world and is interested only in his own affairs. Even his anxiety over Franny's health is short-lived and soon turns into selfish plans for a sexual rendezvous at her guest house. The ramifications of the pilgrim's prayer - how it surpasses petty individual concerns - will be developed later in the book.

Franny expands her attach against conformity in this section, against the predictable Wally Campbells of the world. We have already seen her categorize the girls on the train according to their colleges, and Lane has established himself as the worst kind of conformist - the one who believes he stands apart while simultaneously craving identification with the group. The 1950s are historically marked as an era of great conformity, and Franny is a sensitive postwar child attuned to the destruction of individuality. She is even wise enough to understand that those who rebel against the status quo - the "bohemians," as she calls them - are conformist in their own way, a common enough idea now that was more original in the pre-Viet Nam age of Beatniks. Another prong of her attack against conformity is her hatred of name-dropping. This foreshadows Franny's turbulent relationship with fame, a theme that will assume greater importance later in the book.

But already we know she has retreated from small-time fame as an actor, dropping out of her Theatre Department. She equates acting with ego, and she especially dislikes the actor in "Playboy" for making his part so "lyrical." The word is not incidental; it reminds us that the play was, first, a written work which the actor tried to make into a "lyric," a song. In other words, not only did he dress up the play as a virtual song, but he assumed the voice of the play, taking its speech away from the playwright. Salinger has great contempt for acting and actors, as evidenced in The Catcher in the Rye, and it comes as no surprise for someone who so openly disdains phony "acting" in the social world. One of the great ironies of Franny and Zooey, then, is that it is written almost as a play. Franny and Lane's conversation is much like a two-character dramatic scene, filled mostly with dialogue that distinguishes its speakers through their voices and minor habits. This is an important motif to follow, as Salinger admitting to writing (unproduced) plays when he was younger, and even entertained thoughts of becoming an actor.

Salinger's attention to the aforementioned minor habits and small details, however, makes Franny and Zooey rise beyond the complexity of most plays. Lane's status as a member of the American bourgeoisie, the upwardly mobile middle- to upper-class, reveals itself further in his choices of frog's legs and snails. Franny's order, on the other hand, represents her desire for more innocent fare. The milk is an obvious symbol of childhood, while the chicken sandwich is an unpretentious selection. Her inability to eat the chicken also shows her kindness toward the meek. (In Salinger's short story "Just Before the War With the Eskimos," the main character can't bear to throw away the dead Easter chick she finds in her garbage. Perhaps we are meant to read a similar meaning into Franny's not touching her sandwich, and to her reluctance to part with her swizzle-stick, a corny gift, helpless in its own way, which had good intentions.)

The bartender wipes a sherry glass dry as Franny faints, and the milk also comes in a glass. Although Salinger has yet to mention it, Franny's last name is Glass, and glass is an important motif through the book. In this instance, glass is a receptacle. But whereas Franny holds information, ideas, and beauty, the sherry glass holds a type of upper-class liquor. Unfortunately for her absorbing mind, she must take the bad with the good in her bourgeois environment, the sherry with the milk, Lane's Flaubert paper with the pilgrim's prayer.