Theme Comparison of the Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey

Topics: J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction Pages: 5 (1862 words) Published: May 11, 2008
The world today is very deceptive and phony. J.D. Salinger’s well known novels, The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey attack this fake and superficial society which is evident through the lives, ideas, actions, and words expressed by the characters in these literary pieces. The transition from childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood is inevitable. The protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield goes through this stage and finds himself in a crisis. He alienates himself from everyone who is around him and tries his best not to grow up. Holden often dwells upon his childhood and the life he had with his family. Franny in Franny and Zooey has already passed this stage but finds it difficult to live in a world where everyone she is surrounded by is only concerned with outward appearances. In these worlds, both characters, Holden and Franny, reveal their struggle of growing up and trying to live as an adult in a world full of deception and shallow-minded people who only care about appearances.

From the protagonists’ point of view, the adult world Holden and Franny are entering and living in is a very superficial place. Holden who is sixteen years of age is going through a time of crisis where he is almost forced to become an adult. This concept is the very thing that makes Holden afraid, causing him to misbehave at school. His latest school, Pencey Prep, expels Holden due to his failing grades. When asked for the reason of his lack of academic enthusiasm, Holden simply states that he is not interested in anything. In every school he has attended, Holden has managed to find different reasons not to care and possibly even hate the institutions. “I didn’t exactly flunk out or anything. I just quit, sort of. One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies…On Sundays, for instance, old Haas went around shaking hands with everybody’s parents when they drove up to school. I mean if a boy’s mother was sort of fat or corny-looking or something, and if somebody’s father was one of those guys that wear those suits with the big shoulders, then old Haas would shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go talk, for maybe half an hour with somebody else’s parents.”

It is obvious that Holden does not want to grow up because he thinks that once he becomes an adult, he will become everything he despises. He is a very judgemental person who analyzes the words and actions of everyone around him. The judgments he makes are always negative and he accuses practically everyone he meets of being phony. The way Holden feels about society is the same way Franny feels. She is dating a man named Lane Coutell, who cares for Franny but his concern for his outward appearance is more important to him. While at the train station waiting for Franny to arrive, Lane tries his best to empty his face of any expression to hide how happy and excited he is to see his girlfriend. However, once Franny sees Lane, she throws her arms around him and kisses him, causing Lane to be a little embarrassed. His dislike for public displays of affection with Franny occurs again when Franny faints in a restaurant. He needs to make sure that no one is watching before he strokes her arm to comfort her. Franny’s brother, Zooey, believes that Lane is a phony. “He’s a charm boy and a fake… If he’s worried about Franny at all, I’ll lay all odds it’s for the crummiest reasons.” Franny also expresses contempt toward her egotistical and phony religion professor, who she claims to pretend to be charming. Both Holden and Franny are surrounded by fakes and liars in their lives which cause their disbelief in the adult, real world.

Filled with contempt for the society of fakes and phonies, Holden and Franny turn to different elements in their lives to find some sort of comfort. Holden deeply searches for this in his family relationships and with girls he is attracted to....
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