“I almost always write about very young people,” J.D. Salinger said in 1946, and today this giant of midcentury fiction is being remembered as a chronicler of his time and, especially, of a time of life. But he was also a poet of place. Nearly all of Salinger’s troubled, brilliant young people—Holden and Phoebe, Seymour and Buddy, Franny and Zooey—are Manhattanites, and their stories are distinctly New York stories, set against a backdrop of bustling avenues and classic sixes on either side of Central Park, and narrated in an ironic, neurotic, contrarian voice whose provenance is unmistakable.
This reader’s guide was contributed by Leslie Gleue. Thanks, Leslie!
First published in The New Yorker on January 29, 1955 – pages 24-32, 35-43. Later published in the same book as “Zooey” in a volume called Franny and Zooey, which was published by Little, Brown in the Fall of 1961.
Franny Glass – a young college student traveling to visit her boyfriend for “the Yale game.” Franny is the youngest of the Glass family’s children.
Lane Coutell – Franny’s boyfriend
Franny travels by train to meet her boyfriend, Lane, for a fun weekend of football and friends. Things seem off when they meet at the platform, and they decide to go to a restaurant that is popular with the intellectual crowd. Franny is nervous and out of sorts, chain-smoking and barely eating. Lane tries to have a “normal” conversation with her, but she is distracted. Lane gets insulted at several different points of the conversation. She excuses herself to go the restroom, and comes back feeling better. She finally tells him about a book she’s carrying with her, called “The Way of the Pilgrim.” It’s about a man who travels travels to master the art of continuous prayer through something called the Jesus Prayer. To do this, one repeats “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner” over and over until it becomes a part of their very breath and heartbeat. This appeals to Franny, because it represents purification. Lane is bored by this and discounts the idea. Franny gets up to go to the bathroom again, and faints. When she comes to, Lane suggests that she get some rest. She stares at the ceiling, silently repeating the Jesus Prayer.