The Member of the Wedding Written by carsonmcCullers
Context The novel was first published in 1946 It explores controversial issues about life in the South (USA) The racism and social division that the novel illustrates are, some argue, atypical while others argue that it is a clear portrayal of the social divisions existing at the time.
Context The tone of the novel captures the changing mood of a generation in post-war America where a sense of disillusionment was strong. The war was of course a major issue of the time, yet very distant unless it impacted someone close to home.
Context The war gave rise to a new type of adolescent who had the ability to question the values presented to them. The increasing disparity in incomes also saw a large group of people who lived on the fringes of society become disaffected – disillusioned and alienated. America itself was beginning to change with the development of mass entertainment – we see this in the radio which plays constantly in the kitchen.
Genre – it is a typical, coming-of-age (bildungsroman) story – drama – fiction Narration – Third person narrator almost exclusively from the point of view of Frankie.
Characteristics of the novella The member of the wedding is a novella written post WWII (1946) that explores the psychology of an adolescent girl and the atmosphere and relations in the southern United States. It tells the story of Frankie Addams in the third person, and our protagonist is objectively described without much authorial interjection. The action takes place over a number of days, leading to the wedding of her brother Jarvis and a brief conclusion summarises the events of the months after the wedding.
This novella is particularly about Frankie and the general plot of the work is about her development as a person. We see this though the name changes and the three distinct parts. The Frankie section is filled with imagery and awkwardness, alienation and wanting. The F. Jasmine part shows her growing awareness and is less dream like The Francis part is more factual and certainly has less psychological conflict.
To assist the reader, McCullers uses descriptions of places like Front Avenue as a backdrop to Frankie’s emotional turmoil. She builds on this with the concept of time passing, not only in the narrative flashbacks and F. Jasmine’s reflection that her life is tripartite: past, present, future, but also the fact that the novel itself is not linear or chronological. Frankie’s personal growth is reflected in the name changes
Motifs McCullers uses eyes as symbols and they recur. She suggests that it is through the eyes that we can see what is truly inside a person. Berenice’s eye is always commented on McCullers use of card games explores the rules and order that govern adult lives The piano tuner parallels Frankie’s own life being out of tune with the world. Also the moth image reflects Frankie’s state of mind.
Sections of the Novel The novel can be divided into three main sections: Part 1 – confusion Part 2 – the day before; in the town Part 3 – leaving home; the wedding finale
Characters Frankie Addams - Protagonist, 12 years old – daughter of Royal Quincy Addams & cousin of John Henry West In between childhood and adolescence/young adulthood, Frankie feels alienated and is trying to run away from her drab life Changes her name to F. Jasmine Addams, and then Frances
John Henry West 6 year old first cousin of Frankie very bright symbolises childhood very calm in contrast with Frankie dies at the end of the novel represents Frankie’s entering adolescence and leaving childhood behind
Bernice Sadie Brown Addams’ family housekeeper – straight forward, “voice of reason” Royal Quincy Addams Frankie’s father, a widower - fairly removed from the actions of the novel Soldier unnamed, on three days leave, and after sex - represents the harsh reality of adult life Jarvis Addams Frankie’s older brother – marries Janice Evans
Identity and Belonging The nature of identity and people’s experiences of belonging to particular groups Perceptions of self at home compared with those of self at school Experiences of belonging or not belonging to particular groups Feelings of identity with a group or culture How individuals may be influenced by belonging to a group or culture Issues of national identity Online identities established by network users in online communities‐ Facebook etc
Belonging • Relationships • Family, friends, partner, teacher, associate • Social • Groups, classes, clubs, organisations, teams • Environment • Australia, America, country-side, nature vs. nurture Identity • Career • Lawyer, nurse, politician • Family • Father, mother, sister, cousin • Skills • Athletic, intelligent, listener • Cultural • History, tradition, religion, gender • Social • Peer group, clique, social class
Themes in The Member of the Wedding Isolation/Loneliness Identity and Self Connection Escape Fear Belonging Journey of Growth Innocence
Isolation/Loneliness Although Frankie is surrounded by people, she is still not saved from the loneliness of being 12years‐old. Frankie feels acutely that she is missing out on life. The moths that bang against her window each night symbolise this sense of confinement: ‘To me it is the irony of fate,’ she said. ‘The way they come here. Those moths could fly anywhere. Yet they keep hanging around the windows of this house.’ (pp.19–20)
Isolation/Loneliness What is isolation? How is it exhibited in the novel? List examples of isolation in the text‐ What does this isolation represent? How do you know these are examples of isolation?
Identity and Self Frankie is a tomboy, torn between childhood and adulthood. EG: Name change – giving voice to her changing identity. Name change back to Frances. Is she coming to terms with herself as a maturing young woman who can determine her own identity within the parameters of social expectations? Through Frankie, we can see that an individual’s identity can change depending on how they perceive their position in the social hierarchy. Our identities are often formed in response to changes occurring around us.
In what ways does the wedding prompt Frankie to question her identity? Can an individual accept change more easily if they have others to offer guidance and support? While Frankie never knew her mother, the death had a large impact on her family. How do you think being motherless has influenced Frankie’s identity? Can a sense of feeling isolated sometimes prompt individuals to reach out to others? List some examples of a character searching for identity. Whose identity is changing in the novel? Why is their identity being changed? Is it necessary? Think about why it was necessary for Frankie to make the transition to F. Jasmine‐ What does it represent? Think about instances where people question their identity. What helps to define identity?
Connection Consider the relationship between Frankie and Berenice& Frankie and John Henry. How do these compare to her relationship with her father? What does it mean to have a connection with someone? How do people connect with each other/ disconnect with each other? How does Frankie connect to people? Why does she feel disconnected? How do Frankie and Berenice connect? How do Frankie and John Henry connect? How do Frankie and Royal Quincy Addams connect?
Escape Physical/ emotional/ mental Frankie escaping her real world situations/ running away from home. Why do characters want to escape? Does everyone want to escape for the same reasons? What do you think the characters need in order to escape? How do they ultimately escape? Discuss the reasons that Frankie and the other identified characters choose their particular methods for escape. What things made the escape easy? What things complicated the escape?
Fear Frankie’s adolescent fears‐ That she will grow to 9 feet tall. Later that she is a murderer. Afraid of the dark. Changes in herself‐ Growing up is very challenging ‐ not an instant process. Frankie tries to transform her appearance and changes her name to F. Jasmine but her encounter with the soldier highlights how innocent she really is. Afraid of her isolation. Fear of rejection‐ Frankie’s desperation to belong to a new group stems from her fear of being labelledan outsider – a fear that is heightened because everyone except her seems to belong somewhere. This intensifies her longing to fit in and leads her to imagine a solution to her loneliness.
Fear “…….with somebody sleeping in the dark with her, she was not so much afraid”. “It was the Summer of fear.”
Belonging Frankie is struggling with who she is, who she was as a child and who she will become She is alienated and alone in the world. Typical adolescent crisis? Too young to help the war effort but too big to sleep with Papa anymore. The outer side of the theme of identity‐ “She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world.” Idea of: Who am I as an individual? Who am I in relation to others? Frankie‐ Not included in the summer club with neighbourhoodgirls Lacks a sense of family‐ Her family unit is her, Berenice and John Henry. Her brother Jarvis and Janice‐ “the we of me”
Why is it important to Frankie to choose where she belongs? What value does she see in being a member of a chosen group? Frankie imagines she will travel the world with Jarvis and Janice, but this proves a fantasy. What role do imaginary groups play in forming our identities? In Jarvis and Janice, Frankie initially believes that she has found a group who will respect her individuality. They will make her feel as if she belongs but will not ask her to change.
Journey of Growth Frankie’s inner quest to grow/ develop. She is frustrated and impatient‐ waiting for something better. Symbolism of physical travel to the wedding. Frankie is on an inner quest to grow and develop into a young adult. She is frustrated and restless, impatient waiting for something better. The quest is often symbolized by a physical journey, such as travelling to the wedding. At the wedding Frankie must really ‘grow up’ and feel the pain of her delusional belief that she would be able to tag along with the married couple. Journeys of inner growth often feature loss, painful realizations as turning points. John Henry’s abrupt death symbolizes Frankie’s transition into young adulthood and leaving her childhood behind.
Innocence Frankie’s encounter with the soldier. Her physical changes‐ puberty. The death of John Henry. What events in the novel, The Member of the Wedding, cause Frances to lose her innocence? How do these events connect her to other girls her age and make her a member of something? How does Frankie's innocence isolate her from the real world? How is Frankie's innocence diminished?
Quotes Here are some interesting quotes that are relevant to the Context of Identity and Belonging: “She loved her brother and the bride and she was a member of the wedding.”
Quotes “Is it cold up there?”(teasing by children to Frankie) “It seemed to her that they had looked at her in a secret way and tried to connect their eyes with hers, as though to say: we know you.” (about the prisoners in the jail)
Quotes “They are the we of me”. “We all of us somehow caught.” (Berenice)