Although they are the protagonists from two separate books, Franny Glass, a teenage girl in J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, and Holden Caufield, a young man in Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye, serve as foils to each other. Both suffer unnecessarily due to their interaction with those whom they are close to, due to their relationships with themselves, as well as due to their views on the world. In the end, however Franny and Holden change their values and therefore are able to begin the healing process. Throughout Franny and Zooey, Franny perceives humans to be inherently evil.
As a result, she constantly feels frustrated with the egotism and self-centeredness of the world. One of Franny’s major outlets for this cynicism is poets. Because poets choose to write about the beauties of life, and Franny is unconvinced that such aspects are human nature, she characterizes the profession as “awful,” (18) and “fraudulent. ” Conversely, Holden does not assume that people are bad; rather, he is an idealist. When he does see others’ faults, however, Holden slips into bouts of depression similar to those of Franny. Furthermore, Franny desires to take it upon herself to absolve the sins of the world.
For this reason, she often recites “the Jesus prayer. ” Like the prayer’s namesake, Franny experiences guilt for anyone who is not completely righteous. Holden too feels responsible for the prevention of corruptness. His fantasy is to stand in a field and prevent children from falling off the edge, thus saving them from society’s imperfections. In addition, a major theme common to both books is the relationship of the protagonist to a sibling, and the healing that ensues as a result. For Franny, this healing comes about through her older brother, Zooey.
In his efforts to help his sister, Zooey points out the flaws in Franny’s prayers. He shows that by becoming obsessed, Franny is acting as self-centered as the people against which she battles. For Holden, on the other hand, it is the innocence of Pheobe, contrary to the scornfulness of Zooey, which persuades Holden that there is in fact a balance between untainted aspects of society as well as less than perfect ones. In this way, Pheobe succeeds in changing Holden’s outlook. Rather than focusing solely on the negative facets of a situation, Holden learns to take all parts into account, and not to become discouraged.
Lastly, Franny and Holden can be compared and contrasted through their inner thoughts. Franny often finds herself feeling remorseful for her personal trivial harms, such as when she asks her boyfriend for the olive in his martini. When she realizes that “she didn’t want the olive at all and wondered why she had even asked for it,” (13) Franny suddenly becomes distracted and upset at her selfish interruption of her boyfriend’s conversation. Ironically, this means that Franny pays even less attention to what her boyfriend, Lane, is saying.
Much like her reciting of the prayer, Franny own guilt often results in exactly what she rails against. Like Franny, Holden is the source of much of his own unhappiness. He too feeds his depression by focusing on anything unsatisfactory. Holden successfully finds the heartache in the most innocent of things: nuns asking for charity, a young couple holding hands, and even ducks at a pond. Moreover, in order to cleanse herself of what she sees as evil, Franny compulsively repeats the prayer, ”Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. This illustrates that Franny consciously finds herself at fault.
Holden, however, lacks the insight required to see that he augments his own terrible depression. Even after being thrown out of multiple schools, he continues to insist that it is the system, not himself, which has failed him. J. D. Salinger’s creation of similarities and differences in the characters of Franny and Holden encourages analysis by the reader. Although both characters’ faults result in depression, one is a cynic while the other is an idealist. Both Franny and Holden, however, are able to find peace when they accept a more moderate outlook on life.