"Zooey" Part 3 Summary:
Franny sleeps on the couch in the well-worn living room, which is far too cluttered for the painters to begin their work. Les, their father and, alongside Bessie, a former vaudevillian, has decorated the walls with mementos of the family's entertainment past. Zooey sits on the coffee table opposite the couch as he smokes a cigar and rouses Franny. She tells him about a nightmare in which people kept making her dive for a can of coffee. One of her professors, an egotist whom she dislikes, was there, she says. Bloomberg, the family cat, crawls out of the blanket and up to Franny, who kisses him. Zooey looks at an old photo of his parents, in costume, on the cover of sheet music for a song. Franny asks if his script came last night, as LeSage said it would. Zooey says it did, and that later at night his writer friend Dick Hess called him asking to meet up for a drink. At the bar, Hess lectured him about how his whole family was crazy, and finally handed him a new television script. Franny asks him about the script from LeSage, and Zooey ridicules it for its psychoanalytic jargon. He also insults Hess's script for being sentimental and pat.
Zooey catches Franny silently reciting the Jesus Prayer. He tells her he may be going to France in the summer to make a movie based on a novel Zooey likes. He says he has no business acting in Europe, though, and goes on a tirade about how he undermines people's morale. Franny says she did the same thing to Lane the other day by criticizing him constantly. Zooey tells her she should focus her attacks on herself, not on other people and things - he has the same problem, he says, such as when he denounces television. He says all the Glass children have never left "It's a Wise Child" and cannot have normal conversations - he references his conversation with Hess, in which Zooey insulted him and his work. Zooey says he's disappointed in Hess, whose first script for LeSage was good. He feels bad, though, about spreading gloom wherever he goes.
Franny describes her own recent battle with gloom-spreading. She says she diverted herself for a while with other activities, but one morning she "started up again," and scrawled writings from Epictetus (a Greek philosopher) on a blackboard one morning (she erased it before it was discovered) and picked on everybody all day. She says she was horrified by the idea that knowledge is just another material treasure to acquire, and one which doesn't always lead to wisdom. Zooey suggests she is using the Jesus Prayer acquisitively, as a material treasure. Franny angrily says she's already thought of that, and feels even worse knowing it is true and that she is as "egotistical and self-serving as everybody else." Zooey asks if she would like him to try and get Buddy on the phone for her. She says she wants to talk to Seymour.
Zooey goes over to the window and watches a young girl reunite with her dog. He says there are "nice things" in the world, and finds it stupid that humans don't notice them but instead always think of their own "lousy little egos." He tells Franny something Buddy once told him, then relates the humorous and short religious philosophies of Walt and Boo Boo, both of which delight Franny. Zooey asks if he can make a speech to her and, after much delaying, finally does. He says he is not interested in taking the Jesus Prayer from her, and that what she is doing is terrible for their parents. He disapproves of her tirade against her college professors, even if they deserve it in some respects. He also thinks she does not understand Jesus, and is confusing him with other religions. He recalls a time when she was 10 and told Zooey she didn't like Jesus anymore because he threw around tables and idols in a synagogue, and because he believed humans were more valuable than chickens. He calls her current thinking, praying, and breakdown "tenth-rate." She starts crying. He accuses her of only wanting certain people, such as her professors, to eliminate their egos. He says he doesn't understand how she can pray to Jesus, whom she doesn't even understand. He praises Jesus' supreme intelligence, especially for knowing that there is no separation between man and God. He concludes by stating that the Jesus Prayer is intended to "endow the person who says it with Christ-Consciousness." Slick with sweat, and with Franny crying, he apologizes to her, then leaves the living room.
"Zooey" Part 3 Analysis:
The beginning of the scene is an extended parody of psychoanalysis. Franny-the-patient lies on couch, Zooey-the-Freudian smokes a cigar, and she immediately tells him about a nightmare. We probably could read into the dream somewhat - Franny is drowning, she feels everyone is against her, and even, one might argue, the Medaglia D'Oro (Golden Medal) coffee can is a topsy-turvy reference to the golden ring on the carousel at the end of Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye - or, more likely, not. Any interpretation of her dream has to fall under psychoanalytic clichés, ones which generalize the nature of dreams at the expense of individuality. In this sense, psychoanalysis is another product of an age of conformity as it tries to "normalize" everyone. It follows that Bessie, who longs for her children to be normal, is such a believer in psychoanalysis, while Zooey, who calls himself and Franny "freaks," knows that psychoanalysis will be a waste of time for her. Another way of stating Salinger's case against psychoanalysis is that it is a methodology only of knowledge - of accumulating scientific insights into humanity - rather than a spiritually wise practice.
Indeed, Franny unleashes her full critique against knowledge as a material treasure in this section. Zooey, too, is well aware of the divide between material knowledge and spiritual wisdom. He works in the entertainment industry, where spiritual wisdom is in short supply but material knowledge is abundant. LeSage, for instance, may know what television scripts work, but he is far from spiritually wise, just as Dick Hess knows how to write an absorbing melodrama but has no true wisdom to offer. In fact, LeSage's name is a great irony; it includes the word "sage," or "wise."
But Franny's greater problem is that she has been using the Jesus Prayer for her own spiritual gain - in her rage against egotism and selfishness, she, too, is full of ego. But Zooey's discussion of the Jesus Prayer makes an important point. In fusing oneself with Christ through the Jesus Prayer, the person who prays no longer has any ego. Instead, he has endowed himself with "Christ-Consciousness," and shares his ego with Christ and, presumably, all of humanity.
Zooey argues that Franny wants only to be comforted by Christ, taken in his arms. Before this, Franny says she wants to speak to the dead Seymour. It becomes more clear that he was not only their most wise sibling, but was a Christ-figure for them. Now that he is dead (not by crucifixion, but suicide), he has left the rest of the children unanchored and full of questions. Zooey may offer some sound advice, but he is far too unkind and even egotistical to reach out to Franny meaningfully.
Finally, we now better understand why Franny was so reluctant to eat her chicken sandwich on her date with Lane. She wants to believe, unlike Jesus did, that chickens are just as valuable as humans are. The fact that Bessie has been force-feeding Franny chicken broth to nourish her back to health shows how destined for failure the mission was.