Franny and Zooey: Chapter Summary (Franny)
The story begins with Lane Coutell waiting for his date to arrive at the train station. It is the weekend of the Yale football game and other men wait for their dates for the same event. He pulls a letter out of his pocket and reads it. In the letter, Franny writes that she dislikes most poets except Sappho. She quotes the poet, calling the words “marvelous”. She repeatedly tells him that she loves him. She asks him if he loves her, saying he did not state so in his last letter. She comments that her father got X-rays back from the hospital, and the growth is not malignant. Lane is interrupted by a classmate named Ray Sorenson, who quizzes him on their assignment Rilke. Lane says he understands most of it, and Ray tells him that he is lucky.
Franny’s train arrives and the two kiss on the platform. Lane asks about a green book she is holding. She says it is nothing and stuffs it into her purse. She hooks her arm in his and the two walk. She talks about the other girls on the train assigning them to various stereotypes.
Lane tells her about the less than luxurious accommodations he lined up. Franny has trouble hiding her contempt over Lane’s ineptness. She remembers a rainy night where Lane let a “horrible man in a dinner jacket” take a taxi away from him.
The two jump into a taxi. She tells him that she has missed him and immediately feels guilty for lying. The two go to Snickler’s, a restaurant popular with intellectual college students.
They sip martinis as Lane enjoys being seen with such an attractive girl. Lane dominates the conversation, talking about a paper he wrote on Flaubert where he received an unexpected “A.”
Lane says the author lacks testicularity, or masculinity. He offers to read the paper to Franny. She says she would love to hear it, but secretly is growing tired of the conversation. She interrupts him by asking for his olive, cutting off the dialogue.
He breaks the silence, saying the professor thinks he should publish the essay. Franny says he sounds like a “section man”. She describes section men as grad students that teach the class when the teacher is out, ruining the material by overanalyzing it. The comparison offends Lane. She apologizes, saying she has been destructive all week. She says she strained to write the letter. Lane reaches for her hand, and she retreats.
She says she has grown tired of her English class, mainly pompous “teardowners”. If she had the guts, she said she would have dropped English, or even school. Lane says she is overgeneralizing. He adds that she is privileged to have two brilliant minds as section men in her department.
Maniliu and Esposito are published poets. Franny says they are not real poets. They are just people who write poems that are published in various places. Franny appears pale. Lane presses her to clarify what constitutes a real poet.
Franny dodges the conversation, complaining of feeling ill. Her forehead is covered in sweat, but Lane does not notice. He presses further. Franny snaps that she doesn’t know what a real poet is, adding that she feels funny and wishes the matter be dropped.
Despite her words, she continues. Poets leave something beautiful. Maniliu and Esposito do not accomplish that. The better ones may leave something that you remember, but that does not make them poets. Lane reminds Franny that she mentioned liking Manlius. She confirms this, adding that she wishes she could meet someone she could respect.
The pale Franny rises with her handbag, excusing herself. Lane is concerned and drills her on her condition. Lane is left alone at the table, sipping his martini and smoking cigarettes. His previous thought of being with the right or “right looking girl” at the right place disappears. He sees someone he knows and changes his composition to that of an “attractively bored” date simply waiting for his date to return from the bathroom.
The large bathroom is unoccupied except for the pale, sickly Franny. She locks herself in a stall and sits down, her hands trembling. She tries to block out everything, sitting stiffly. She holds that position and then breaks down, sobbing loudly and unrestrained for five minutes.
Then, she stops, as suddenly as she started. Her tear-stained face is blank of emotion. She pulls out the green book she was holding when she walked off the train. She gazes at the book in her lap. She raises it to her chest and embraces it for a moment. Then she stuffs it back in her purse. She exits the stall, washes her face with cold water, applies lipstick, combs her hair, and leaves the bathroom.
Looking beautiful, she returns to the table and apologizes. Lane complains that they do not have a lot of time. He sees her bloodshot eyes and asks her if she is ok. Franny lights a cigarette and says she’s feeling great and never felt so “fantastically rocky” in her life. They discuss ordering.
Franny says she is not that hungry and could do with a chicken sandwich rather than the exotic fare. Lane expresses his irritation at Franny’s lack of an appetite. Franny snaps back, saying she cannot work up an appetite just for him. Lane gives up, ordering a chicken sandwich and a glass of milk for Franny and frog legs, snails, and a salad for himself.
Lane says they will be going to the game with a guy name Wally, informing her that she likes Wally. Franny says she does not remember Wally. Lane grows more irritated, reminding her that she has met him about twenty times.
Franny remembers and pleads to Lane not to hate her because she cannot remember a person immediately, especially when they all run together and act, talk, and dress like everyone else.
Franny does not like the words coming out of her mouth and a wave of self hatred takes over her. Her forehead begins to sweat again. She continues, despite hating how catty she sounds. It is not difficult to forget Wally because she sees Wally everywhere. She knows they will gossip, brag, and name-drop. She adds that people of a certain income bracket can name drop all they want as long as they insult the name they are dropping. She stares at the ash tray, not daring to peek up at Lane’s expression. She apologizes, adding that Wally looks like someone who spent last summer in Italy. Lane corrects her; he spent last summer in France.
Franny continues her rant, saying that women all act the same, as well. They all spend glamorous summers doing fascinating things, like bicycling through Wales or working for a magazine or something. She calls these types of activity “tiny and meaningless.” She says people who “go bohemian” end up conforming like everyone else, only in a different way. She feels her forehead and speculates as to whether she is going crazy. Lane comments on how pale she looks as she lights another cigarette. He warns her that she smokes too much. The food arrives. Lane looks up from his plate of snails and asks her if she is okay. Lane encourages her to eat, but she feels sick looking down at her chicken sandwich.
Lane asks her about the play. She informs him that she quit the play and the theater department. Lane is flabbergasted, reminding her of her passion. She says she began to feel like a “nasty little egomaniac.” She continues, elaborating on the arrogance of running around backstage pretending to be so natural and warm to the people visiting backstage. She adds that she had been ashamed to be in some of the plays, saying she would have hated if people she respected attended the plays. Playing Pegeen in Playboy might have been neat if it wasn’t for the person who played the Playboy, who spoiled the play by being “lyrical.”
Lane reminds her that she got terrific reviews. Franny has been talking for a half hour as if she is the only one with any sense or critical ability, he says. Maybe she is wrong, he suggests. Franny calls the actor decent, but to play the Playboy right you have to be a genius. She comments again on how strange she feels.
Lane asks Franny if she thinks she is a genius. Franny is insulted by the question. She says she feels like she is losing her mind and getting sick of her and everybody else’s ego. “I’m sick of everybody that wants to get somewhere, do something distinguished and all, be somebody interesting,” she says. Lane tells her a psychoanalyst would say she simply afraid of competing.
Franny insists she is afraid she will, in fact, compete. She likes the applause and raves she gets from the theater department, but she is ashamed by it. She declares she is sick of being scared to be an absolute nobody. Lane compassionately offers her a handkerchief to wipe her sweating brow. Franny declines his offer, saying she does not want to dirty the handkerchief. She digs through her purse, searching for tissue and setting objects on the table, including the green book she was holding when she got off the train. Lane asks her about the book.
Franny jumps. She says it is just something she brought to read on the train. Lane asks to take a look. Franny ignores him, stuffing things back into her purse. She changes the subject and talks about a gold swizzle stick that a boy gave her for her birthday. He promised she would always have good luck if she carries it around. She cannot bring herself to throw the pretty thing away. Lane, irritated, brings the conversation back to the book, wondering if it is a secret.
Franny tells him the book is called The Way of the Pilgrim. The professor of a Religion Survey class mentioned the book. Lane asks who wrote the book. Franny says the author is anonymous. All you know about the writer is that he is a 33-year-old Russian peasant in the eighteen-hundreds with a withered arm and a dead wife.
Lane presses her further about the book. Franny says she is not sure if she likes it or not. It's peculiar. The peasant becomes fascinated with a place in the Bible where it says you should pray incessantly. So, armed with only a knapsack filled with bread and salt, he searches all over Russia for someone to teach him how to pray all the time and what to say when you do. He meets a person called a starets, an advanced religious person who tells him about a book called the Philokalia. The book was written by monks who advocate a method of praying. Lane is focused on his frog legs.
The peasant learns to pray using the advanced method and then tours Russia teaching fascinating people how to do it, as well. Lane makes some comment about smelling like garlic, indicating he is not so intrigued with the book. She says she fell in love with a married couple he meets on his journey. He is greeted by their children who call for him on his walk, telling him their mother loves pilgrims. He goes to their house, where the mother helps him take off his boots and gives him a cup of tea. He stays for dinner. The table is surrounded by the family's servants. They join the family at dinner because they are “sisters in Christ”.
Franny says she loves that the pilgrim was interested in who these people were. The pilgrim stays the night, teaching the father how to pray in his unique way. The next morning, he moves on to a new adventure. Lane nods and mentions that he would like Franny to read his paper he spoke of earlier. Franny suggests Lane find the book at a library and read it. She would lend hers to him, but it is long overdue. Lane still appears more interested in his dinner. Franny continues, talking about the method the pilgrim learns and teaches.
The starets tells him to use the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” She adds that “mercy” is a tremendously powerful word that can mean many things. As she speaks, she pauses to reflect, looking over Lane's shoulder. She says one does not even have to have their heart into the practice at first. You can simply say the words with your lips, with no meaning or faith behind it necessary. After awhile, the words become “self-active” and synchronize with your heartbeat. Soon you are praying constantly, changing your whole outlook on life. Franny is pale but enlightened. It makes absolute sense, she says. The Buddhists do the same thing with their chanting of mantras. She gives more examples.
Lane tells her to take it easy and warns her that she is about to burn her fingers with her dwindling cigarette. Franny recognizes his expression and asks what is wrong. Lane asks her if she genuinely believes this stuff. She answers that she merely finds it fascinating and a coincidence that it shows up under multiple philosophies and faiths. She says the result of the practice allows you to see God, adding she is agnostic.
The waiter takes away her untouched chicken sandwich. Lane relaxes, orders coffee, and tells Franny that he loves her. Franny excuses herself. She rushes to the bathroom but faints in front of the bar. She wakes up on a couch in the manager's office with Lane at her side. Lane is terribly worried. He says they will skip cocktails and the game. He will get her to her accommodations so she can rest. He mentions that he will come to visit and implies they have not been sexual in a long time. Lane leaves to get her some water. Franny is left, staring at the ceiling, her lips moving, “forming soundless words.”