Places: Franny and Zooey

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: “Franny,” 1955; “Zooey,” 1957; novel, 1961

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Domestic realism

Time of work: November, 1955

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Manhattan

*Manhattan. Franny and ZooeyBorough of New York City that seems to be a place where much is offered. In reality, however, this is not the case. Wintertime has traditionally reflected death, and in the Glass house it has been winter for seven years; Seymour’s death haunts the other characters, who have not yet recovered from his passing. J. D. Salinger knows Manhattan well, having lived there through most of his early publishing life. The fact that he does not go into detail about the city the way he does in Catcher in the Rye (1951) reflects his assertion in this novel that people are more important than places. Franny and Zooey, for the most part, could take place anywhere.

Glass living room

Glass living room. At once homey and forbidding, the Glass living room is a reflection of the Glasses themselves. The house sits a story higher than the school across from it, suggesting the Glasses’ superiority in things intellectual (all the Glass children have been on the quiz show “It’s a Wise Child”). All the furniture is marred in one way or another and does not match, just as Zooey and Franny do not match. Even though it is bright and sunny, the light brings out the worst in the living room (stains from pets, for example). As wonderful as it is outside, Franny and Zooey stay inside as if trying to keep the outside world from crashing in on them.

Glass bathroom

Glass bathroom. Zooey Glass spends most of his time in the family bathroom, which also serves as a meetinghouse between Zooey and his mother. It is also where Zooey reads a letter from his older brother, Buddy, about bringing Seymour’s corpse home after Seymour has committed suicide. The room itself is not symbolic, but it serves as the template for the entire family’s feelings about Franny and the overall theme of Seymour’s death.

Seymour Glass’s bedroom

Seymour Glass’s bedroom. After seven years, Zooey Glass finally goes into Seymour’s bedroom for the first time. Going into this room serves as closure for Zooey and Franny, who have all put their thoughts and feelings on hold since Seymour’s death. The bedroom, which Seymour shared with his brother Buddy, is decorated with many religious sayings and thoughts, some of which Buddy writes about in his letter to Zooey. Here Zooey finds the knowledge that he has been looking for–comparing Jesus and the Fat Lady–which he shares with Franny.

Sickler’s

Sickler’s. Manhattan restaurant frequented by the intellectual students of Princeton. Everything about the restaurant, from the table to the women’s bathroom, suggests an atmosphere in which everything is in its place, except Franny. Franny looks like she belongs to this group of people who frequent this restaurant, but her feelings are in conflict. As she sits in the bathroom, she clings to the belief that all this–the restaurant, the theater, her boyfriend Lane–is not as important as the simpler things in the book itself. She wants to give everything up and live simply, the exact opposite of how she is living now.

BibliographyFrench, Warren. J. D. Salinger. New York: Twayne, 1963. One of the few attempts critically to evaluate Salinger’s writing by focusing on its effects on young readers rather than on Salinger’s personal psychological and spiritual underpinnings. The result is an insightful explanation of the portrait of adolescence in Salinger’s work and why it has been so heartily embraced by American youth.Laser, Marvin, and Norman Fruman. Studies in J. D. Salinger: Reviews, Essays, and Critiques of “The Catcher in the Rye” and Other Fiction. New York: Odyssey Press, 1963. A wonderful and diverse collection of analyses written at the time of Salinger’s publications by some of the most recognized contemporary critics.Lundquist, James. J. D. Salinger. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1979. A so-called New Criticism analysis that conflates Salinger’s life with the lives of his characters and stories. The thorough chronology is very useful in this context.Miller, James E., Jr. J. D. Salinger. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1965. Number 51 of a series of pamphlets written on American writers. A concise, succinct, and accessible synopsis of Salinger’s writing.Ranchan, Som P. “Zooey and Franny” and “Bessie.” In An Adventure in Vedanta (J. D. Salinger’s The Glass Family). Delhi, India: Ajanta Publications, 1989. An interesting but very narrow reading of his works. Interprets both Salinger’s personal life and his stories in light of the Vedantic vision, which entails a spiritual quest for that universal truth said to be found in all religions.
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