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THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING - FREE CHAPTER SUMMARY / NOTES
Frances "Frankie," "F Jasmine" Addams, a twelve
year old girl who is going through the rites of passage which will take
her from girlhood to womanhood.
The in-between time of adolescence. Frankie is neither a child nor a
woman at this point in her life and experiences the discomfort and anxiety
of not belonging.
Frankie encounters adult sexuality when she has her date with the red-haired
Frankie grows up as a result of her humiliating experience at the wedding
and her later attempt to run away. She becomes thirteen and gets a new
SHORT SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Part 1 begins with Frankie Addams in the kitchen in the dog days of
summer with Berenice Sadie Brown and John Henry West. Her brother, Jarvis,
has just been home on a brief visit to introduce the family to his fiancee,
Janice. They will get married the next week in the town of Winter Hill,
Janice’s home town. Frankie’s brother has been living in Alaska and is
home only briefly to get married and then will join the army to fight
in World War II. Janice and Jarvis’s visit has interrupted the longest
and most unbearable summer of Frankie’s life. Frankie’s best friend left
town before the summer began and all the other girls seem to be thirteen
already. They won’t allow Frankie to be a member of their girls’ club
because she’s too loud and rude. Frankie has spent the summer playing
cards and talking to Berenice and John Henry in the kitchen of her house.
Her father is gone all day at the jewelry store and has become something
of an opposing force in Frankie’s life ever since he told her she had
to begin to sleep in her own bed instead of sleeping with him now that
she is twelve. Frankie realizes she belongs no where and when she sees
her brother and his fiancee, she decides to become a member of the wedding.
She tells Berenice Janice and Jarvis are "the we of me."
Part 2 begins with Frankie’s walk around town under the new name of
F. Jasmine Addams. Her task is to buy a wedding dress, but she encounters
many people along the way. When she hears the organ grinder playing for
his monkey, she searches for him until she finds him standing on the street
arguing with a red-haired soldier who his holding a wad of dollar bills.
The monkey runs up F. Jasmine’s body and sits on her head until the organ
grinder coaxes it down and leaves. F. Jasmine speaks to the soldier who
seems strange and talks to her as if she were an older girl. They go the
Blue Moon cafe where he asks her to meet him later to go dancing. F. Jasmine
is proud of herself for being grown up enough to be asked on a date by
a soldier. She goes home and models her new dress for Berenice and John
Henry. The three of them have a long talk into the late afternoon over
several sessions of eating their dinner. Frankie tries to tell Berenice
about her connections with people in the town that afternoon. She had
walked all over town telling strangers about her plan to join the wedding
and go on the honeymoon with the couple and then become world travelers
with them. Berenice tells Frankie about her own experience with falling
in love with the wrong objects of affection. She had one great love in
her life and was married happily to him for a number of years before he
died of pneumonia. Then she had met a series of men who had reminded her
in some way or another of Ludie. Each of the men had been a horrible disappointment
and one had been dangerous enough to put her eye out so that now she wore
a blue glass eye. She warns Frankie that falling in love with something
as strange as a wedding will get her into a world of trouble. She holds
Frankie in her arms and they talk quietly for a long time until suddenly
all three of them begin to cry for separate and unnamed reasons.
Later that evening, Frankie dresses up and goes to Sugarville, the Black
section of town, to have her fortune told by Big Mama, who lives with
Berenice. John Henry, dressed in a gaudy costume dress, follows along.
Big Mama tells Frankie that she will go on a trip and return. Frankie
is unsure about the fortune since she doesn’t plan to return. When she’s
leaving, she sees Honey, Berenice’s nephew, who Big Mama says God never
quite finished in making him. Honey has a great deal of intelligence and
potential but often gets into trouble drinking and partying. As Frankie
leaves Berenice’s house, she tells Honey he should move to Cuba where
he could pass as Cuban and leave behind his Black identity. She sends
John Henry home alone and she goes to the Blue Moon where the red-haired
soldier is waiting for her. He is drunk and makes sexual innuendoes that
Frankie doesn’t understand and cannot respond to. He leads her up to his
room where he begins to kiss her. Shocked, Frankie bites his tongue and
hits him over the head with a pitcher before escaping down the fire escape.
She gets home worried that the Black Maria, the police van, will pull
up to her house any minute and drag her off to the police station as she
knows it does in the Black section of town when people are suspected of
crimes. Nothing happens, though, and she goes to bed confused and afraid.
The next morning she gets on the bus along with her father, John Henry
and Berenice and they travel to Winter Hill. Frankie is disappointed that
Winter Hill is further south from her own home town and that the towns
they pass along the way are successively smaller and uglier. At the wedding,
nothing goes as Frankie had planned. She never gets a chance to talk to
either her brother or Janice about her plans to go with them on the honeymoon.
When the couple get ready to leave, Frankie comes out with her bag. When
they tell her she cannot go, she gets into the car and hangs onto the
steering wheel. She is pried away from it and left crying in the dust
as the car pulls away and leaves her alone. She cries all the way home
on the bus, hating everyone who witnessed her humiliation.
That night, she decides to leave home alone and she writes her father
a note, picks up her suitcase, takes her father’s pistol and some money
out of his wallet and leaves the house. Once outside, she doesn’t know
where to go. She doesn’t have enough money to buy a bus ticket and she
doesn’t know how to hop a freight car. She sits on her suitcase in an
alley and holds the gun to her head for a few minutes. Then she puts the
gun away and goes back to the Blue Moon, thinking that if the red-haired
soldier isn’t dead, she will marry him and leave town with him. She’s
not there for long when the sheriff comes in and says they have been looking
for her. She’s not sure why she’s being captured at first and is disappointed
when she finds out she is only being captured for having run away.
Part 3 opens when Frankie has turned thirteen. She is standing in the
kitchen making sandwiches for her new friend Mary Littlejohn. Berenice
is sitting slumped at the table disapproving of Frankie’s choice of a
Catholic for a friend. In the time since she ran away, Honey has been
caught breaking into a store and put into jail. Berenice has tried everything
she can to get his sentence reduced but to no avail. During the same time,
John Henry died of meningitis. He was tortured with the pain of it for
days before he died and Berenice has lost her sense of justice in the
world. Frankie and her father are moving in with John Henry’s parents
in a new house in the suburbs and Berenice is leaving their employ. Frankie
has been humbled by John Henry’s death and Honey’s incarceration, but
she is in the throes of euphoria over her new girlfriend who will spend
the night with her and ride out to the new house with her in the morning.
The two girls plan to grow up and become world travelers together.
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