Franny and Zooey: Historical Context
American author J.D. Salinger (1919-2010) is most famous for his 1951 The Catcher in the Rye. After the success of this classic, he devoted his writing to the subject of the Glass family. A big piece of that saga is captured in Franny and Zooey.
The short story Franny was published in The New Yorker in 1955 and the novella Zooey in 1957. The two were published together in a book, in 1961, rising to the top of The New York Times bestseller list.
Salinger draws inspiration from Buddhism and other Eastern religions, which he delved into for his own personally spirituality. Franny and Zooey puts forth a combination of Judeo-Christian and Eastern religions. However, as the narrator tells in the opening of Zooey, this is a story more about love than spirituality.
The book was released as one war concluded and the Cold War resumed. It was a time of immense patriotism and blind reliance on intellectuals. Franny and Zooey offers harsh criticism of such blind respect and conformity.
The 1950s also was prime time for interest in domestic matters. Audiences delighted in hearing about the Glass family as they did family sitcoms on television. Television is also a target in the book. Salinger was known to disrespect television as low brow entertainment.
Some say Salinger put himself in the book as Zooey narrator Buddy. Buddy writes convoluted prose from seclusion. Salinger was a well-known recluse. Salinger was also known to write about young characters who failed to fit into society’s mold.