” I wish I was somebody else except me. ” (Part 1, p.7)
The Member of the Wedding is a scathing portrait of pre-teen awkwardness, growing pains, and self-delusion. It reads like a prolonged short-story with its limelight on Frankie Adams, a 12-year-old girl who does “not belong to any club and a member of nothing in the world.” A social outcast who is conscious of herself, she shuns all company, hates the Southern town she lives in, and sets her heart to in leaving. Frankie is a convenient target of ridicule because of her height. She finds good company in John henry, her 6-year-old cousin and Berenice, the family cook.
Frankie, I honestly believe you have turned yourself crazy on us. Walking around all over town and telling total strangers this big tale. You know in your soul this mania of yours is pure foolishness. (Part 2, p.79)
Frankie sees her way out of the imprisonment that is the town life i the form of a wedding—that of her brother, Jarvis, an army corporal, to Janice. She has the idea that she can join them on their honeymoon. The story is simple and innocent enough, but also a down-tempo, febrile one. Much of the activity is interior—either inside Frankie’s head all the unbridled imagination, or in the kitchen, where she tells Berenice of her plans to leave after attending the wedding. The precocious Frankie even opts to become sophisticated F. Jasmine so that the opening syllable of her name can match up with Jarvis and Janice. As she prepares for her departure after the wedding, she becomes entangled with a soldier who mistakenly believes her to be much older than she is and takes advantage of her.
This world is certainly a sudden place. (Part 1, p.16)
The Member of the Wedding is very succinct and lyrical, teeming with a daydreaming sensibility. The whole atmosphere is dreamy: an unnamed town in the south, the long, lazy, brooding hot afternoon, the small ugly kitchen, and the distance by which reader sees the actions of its characters, and the conversation in which Berenice attempts to talk Frankie out of her mania, asking her if she will be “attempting to break into weddings for the rest of her life.” It’s about the confusion of who one is, and what one wants to do.
Even if a fantasy life with the happily married couple is preposterous, untenable and strange, the thought process (even capable by a 12-year-old) behind the dream is nothing short of heartbreaking. McCullers captures brilliantly the sense of uncertainty of a socially alienated girl on the threshold of adolescence. For all the hysterical, inconsequential misery Frankie bemoans in her life, there’s a sense of real misery underlying it. The nuances hidden in between the lines make this book warrant many re-reads. An overlooked gem.
163 pp. Mariner/Houghton Mifflin. Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]