The Member of
the Wedding
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
is the story of an adolescent girl who triumphs over loneliness and gains
maturity through an identity that she creates for herself in her mind.

It is with this guise that twelve year old Frankie Addams begins to feel
confident about herself and life. The author seems to indicate that one
can feel good about oneself through positive thinking regardless of reality.

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The novel teaches that one’s destiny is a self-fulfilled prophesy, seeing
one’s self in a certain light oftentimes creates an environment where one
might become that which one would like to be.

The world begins to look new and beautiful
to Frankie when her older brother Jarvis returns from Alaska with his bride-to-be,
Janice. The once clumsy Frankie, forlorn and lonely, feeling that she “was
a member of nothing in the world” now decides that she is going to be “the
member of the wedding.” Frankie truly believes that she is going to be
an integral part of her brother’s new family and becomes infatuated with
the idea that she will leave Georgia and live with Jarvis and Janice in
Winter Hill. In her scheme to be part of this new unit, she dubs herself
F. Jasmine so that she and the wedding couple will all have names beginning
with the letters J and a. Her positive thinking induces a euphoria which
contributes to a rejection of the old feeling that “the old Frankie had
no we to claim…. Now all this was suddenly over with and changed. There
was her brother and the bride, and it was as though when first she saw
them something she had known inside of her: They are the we of me.” Being
a member of the wedding will, she feels, connect her irrevocably to her
brother and his wife. Typical of many teenagers, she felt that in order
to be someone she has to be a part of an intact, existing group, that is,
Jarvis and Janice. The teen years are known as a time of soul-searching
for a new and grown up identity. In an effort to find this identity teens
seek to join a group. Frankie, too, is deperate for Jarvis and Janice’s
adult acceptance.

Frankie is forced to spend the summer with
John Henry, her six year old cousin, and Berenice Brown, her black cook.

It is through her interactions with these two characters that the reader
perceives Frankie’s ascent from childhood. Before Jarvis and Janice arrive,
Frankie is content to play with John Henry. When she becomes F. Jasmine
and an imagined “we” of the couple, she feels too mature to have John Henry
sleep over, preferring, instead, to occupy her time explaining her wedding
plans to strangers in bars, a behavior she would not have considered doing
before gaining this new confidence.

When F. Jasmine tells her plans to Berenice,
the cook immediately warns her that Jarvis and Janice will not want her
to live with them. F. Jasmine smugly ignores the cook’s warning that “you
just laying yourself this fancy trap to catch yourself in trouble.” The
adolescent feels confident and cocky, refusing to believe that her plot
is preposterous. After the wedding and the shattering reality that Frances
(as she is now known) faces, it is evident, from the fact that their refusal
doesn’t crush her, that she has truly turned herself around, and that her
maturity is an authentic and abiding one. At the conclusion of the story,
the now confident Frances is able to plan a future for herself, by herself,
which includes becoming a great writer. She, further, finds a sympathetic
friend who becomes the other half of her new “we.”
Carson McCullers brilliantly portrays a
teenage girl’s maturation through a fabricated feeling of belonging, which
ultimately leads to a true belonging. The reader sees how the girl grows
from a childish “Frankie,” to a disillusioned “F. Jasmine,” and eventually
to a matured Frances. When F. Jasmine questions Berenice as to why it is
illegal to change one’s name without consent of the court, the cook insightfully
responds, “You have a name and one thing after another happens to you,
and you behave in various ways and do various things, so that soon the
name begins to have a meaning.” No matter how we might change externals,
it is only when our innermost feelings are altered that we truly change
and grow.