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Dusting off the Classics: Franny and Zooey

By Megan Carey
On November 18, 2010

As unfortunate as it may be when J.D. Salinger is brought up in conversation, it is usually in reference to his reclusive nature and death or his most popular novel "Catcher in the Rye" about namby pamby schoolboy Holden Caulfield. However, unbeknownst to many, Salinger did indeed pen another novel, "Franny and Zooey," which chronicles the concerns of the Glass family and their four children.

It is questionable whether "Franny and Zooey" is even a classic at all considering Wikipedia does not list it as a notable Salinger work, but without a doubt, the novel has cultural significance and is deserves positive attention.

The novel is divided into two parts, which were originally published in The New Yorker in 1955 and 1957 respectively, and reads strangely since it jumps right into the plot introducing Franny having a spiritual breakdown. The two stories are related, each of the stories references Franny and the other her older brother Zooey, but they are very uneven.

The first part, "Franny," which is significantly shorter than the second, displays Franny as psychologically unwell and it is not fair to judge her for this first experience for the reader has no background on her life. The second part, "Zooey," immediately introduces Zooey, who while lounging in a bath, intermittingly reads an old letter and a movie script and is increasingly rude to his mother Bessie.

The reader, however, learns more about the Glass family in "Zooey" than in "Franny." The letter Zooey reads is four years old and is from his oldest brother Buddy written on the three-year anniversary of their older brother Seymour's suicide. The everlasting notion of family and the strong ties the Glass family incorporates in their day-to-day life is heavily pressed upon the reader.

This novel is important, especially today, because of the themes it presents. Franny's spiritual breakdown brings about many connotations about religion, as well as the themes of family, love and intellectualism. The Glass siblings are all very close, a fact that stems from their stint on a radio talk show in which they became famous for their stunning intellect.

Fame and its effect on children is developed as a minor theme throughout the book, as Seymour commits suicide and another Franny has difficulty relating to her peers. Readers of all ages can identify with Franny's issues with her peers' phoniness and outright conformity, an idea that Salinger grapples with in his most famous novel, "Catcher in the Rye." Love, especially familial love, is an enduring motif throughout the novel, as Zooey comes through for Franny by using the knowledge of his deceased brother, whom every member of the Glass family idolized, to tame his sister's frantic mind.

Although "Franny and Zooey" is an obscure novel compared to Salinger's other work, it is no less of a classic and contains many lessons and thoughts to pass on to its reader. Without a doubt, the novel makes readers think and compare their own lives to those of the Glass family.

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