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FREE STUDY GUIDE - THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING BY CARSON MCCULLERS
The next day is the day before the wedding, a Saturday. Suddenly, "after
the closed blank summer," Frankie feels a new sense of the town.
She has become a "sudden member" and now can see the virtues
of the town. She feels included. She remembers seeing two mules going
round and round in a circle grinding juice when she visited an old uncle
of John Henry, Uncle Charles. The old Frankie had resembled that old mule.
Now everything is different for her. She goes to a hotel, something she’s
never done before. Furthermore, she is there with a soldier whereas before,
she has only seen older girls with soldiers.
Her day begins at dawn. She wakes up and thinks of her brother and the
bride in Winter Hill. She next thinks of the town and feels it calling
to her. She doesn’t wonder about these things because she is no longer
the old Frankie; she is F. Jasmine. She feels familiar with the wedding
already as if she’s known about it for a long time. She decides to make
some calling cards with her new name, F. Jasmine Addams, Esq. She works
on this project for a short while but her mind is too busy to keep at
it. She dresses in her pink organdy dress and puts on lipstick and perfume.
She goes downstairs and greets her father who is having his coffee in
Her father is Royal Quincy Addams and he is a "widowman" set
in his ways. Frankie’s mother died when Frankie was born and since then
Mr. Addams has followed his own course. He doesn’t like to speak in the
morning until he’s had three cups of coffee. All sounds and sensations
bother him in the morning. Frankie has felt a grudge against him ever
since he made her sleep in her own room. This morning, however, she forgets
the grudge. She tells him she isn’t coming back home after the wedding.
He doesn’t answer her. She tells him she must buy a wedding dress and
some shoes and stockings. He nods his permission. Frankie reviews all
the images of her father she has stored up over the years. She tells him
she’ll write him letters. He gets up and looks around as if he’s lost
something. He asks her where the monkey-wrench and screw driver are. She
tells him she used them and left them at John Henry’s. He expresses his
annoyance and then wonders if he smells toast burning.
F. Jasmine leaves the house when it is still early in the morning. The
air is fresh and she can hear the voices of the neighborhood children
calling out. It’s the first time she feels touched by the sound. They
are building a swimming pool n someone’s back yard. The old Frankie had
once been their leader. Now she knows the project will end in a huge mud
puddle. She feels touched also by the sight of her own home yard. She
sees the shack she built for selling lemonade with a sign painted with
the words "Dew Drop Inn." She knows she’ll never run that store
again. She thinks she will review the days of her life when she and Janice
and Jarvis start the honeymoon. She feels very happy.
She walks along main street and it seems like she is looking at it after
many years’ absence. She feels free as a traveler just passing through.
As she walks along, an old African-American man passes in a wagon and
they exchange glances. In the glance, Frankie feels an unnamable connection.
The same thing happens as she sees other people in town. She thinks of
it as a connection and knows Berenice would scoff at the idea. In front
of the bank, she finds a dime on the street and isn’t even surprised at
her luck. She feels a sense of "lightness, power, entitlement."
Frankie comes to the Blue Moon, a cafe near her father’s jewelry shop.
She comes to this cafe because she is searching for an organ grinder and
his monkey. She can hear the tune, but when she hurries to find them,
the sound stops. She has always been fond of the organ man and his monkey
as they have come and gone from the town over the course of the years.
She comes upon the Blue Moon after walking a good distance. It is a place
frequented by soldiers who come to town from the camp nine miles outside
of town. They usually walk around town in "glad, loud gangs"
or walk the sidewalks with older girls. In the past, Frankie had been
dressed in her old khaki shorts and her Mexican hat and had watched them
from a distance. She always imagines the many cities these men come from
and the places where they are going. She is not jealous this morning,
however, because she knows she too will be going somewhere. She used to
stand outside the Blue Moon and look in through the window. She would
often hear loud and angry voices inside. Once she had seen a man come
out of the cafe with a bloodied face and a police officer take him away.
She had always known this was forbidden place to children, only open to
"the grown and free." Yet "the old laws she had known before
mean nothing to F. Jasmine." She goes inside.
Inside there is a red-headed soldier who is destined to come and go
in F. Jasmine’s day. At first, she doesn’t notice him. She goes up to
the counter and orders coffee from the owner, a Portuguese man. He serves
her and sits silently in front of her at the counter. She begins to tell
him about the wedding. He stares unresponsive. She ends by telling him
how strange it feels to know she’ll never be back in the town again. At
that point, she notices the soldier. Later, she would try to remember
back to this moment to see if there was any hint of future craziness,
but at the time he looked normal. When she notices him, she realizes she
is looking at him in a new way. She is not jealous. She knows that wherever
he’s from or wherever he’s going, she’s not stuck in the town any more.
When she glances at him, she also notices a sense of recognition in his
look as if "they exchanged a special look of friendly, free travelers."
She says "adios" to the Portuguese man and leaves the cafe.
The Spanish word reminds her of one of her favorite pastimes in her
life as the old Frankie. She had liked to dress up in her Mexican hat
and high laced boots acting like she was Mexican, speaking a special version
of Spanish and attracting a crowd of children. Now as F. Jasmine, she
wants "to be recognized for her true self." As F. Jasmine walks
along the street, she walks to the beat of music she hears in her head.
She comes upon a woman sweeping her front porch and tells the woman of
her wedding plans. The woman exclaims "Well, I declare," and
F. Jasmine moves on. She comes upon men working on the road and calls
out to the driver of the tractor the story of the wedding. She has to
run along the side of the tractor and isn’t sure the man hears her. She
comes to a finer neighborhood, but no one is outside, so she can’t tell
anyone there. Her dress becomes wet with sweat. Occasionally, she hears
the voice of Berenice scolding her for talking to strangers. She crosses
the dividing line between the white part of town and the black part of
town. She tells many people there about the wedding and as she does so,
the plans "stiffened and fixed" and "finally came unchangeable."
By eleven thirty in the morning, she feels satisfied in her need to be
She goes to her father’s store. He tells her Berenice has called several
times looking for her. He says he’s going to Aunt Pet’s because Uncle
Charles has died. F. Jasmine remembers him as a very old man who has been
sick for a long time. Her father goes to the back of the store and
F. Jasmine looks at the jeweler’s tools. She used to like to sit in the
window working with the tools attracting the notice of children outside
who, she imagined, would say she works on the most difficult jobs in the
store. When her father comes back in, she asks him about shopping for
her new dress. He tells her to charge it at MacDougals. She complains
that they always use that store and asserts that where she is going there
will be stores "a hundred times bigger than MacDougals."
At twelve o’clock F. Jasmine is back outside. She hears the organ grinder
again and she goes toward the sound. She remembers scenes from the routine
of the organ grinder and his monkey. The monkey is supposed to hold his
hat out to customers, but often gets confused and holds it out to the
organ grinder who then threatens to hit him. As F. Jasmine approaches
the organ grinder, she hears an argument. She comes upon them seeing a
man with a fist full of dollar bills arguing with the organ grinder while
the monkey cowers nearby. She stands watching and suddenly the monkey
runs up her body and sits on her head. The organ grinder talks to it and
coaxes it down. They leave.
Frankie realizes the man with the dollars is the red-haired soldier.
She exclaims that it is certainly a darling monkey. The soldier looks
at her and loses his angry expression. He looks her up and down and asks
her if she’s going his way or if he is going hers. She seems to recall
this expression from a movie, but can’t decide what her reply should be.
He holds his arm out to her and she takes it. As they walk along, F. Jasmine
talks to him, but realizes he is not listening. He tells her he’s from
Arkansas, one of the few states she has never felt much curiosity about.
He asks her to go to the Idle Hour, a dance bar F. Jasmine has only heard
about but has never imagined she would frequent. Her joy at being treated
as an adult is spoiled by an uneasy doubt about the soldier.
They arrive at the Blue Moon and he orders beers. She feels very proper
as she sits there with him. She asks him if he thinks it’s exciting that
they are sitting there today and in a month there’s no telling where he’ll
be. She tells him she plans to go several places with Janice and Jarvis
beginning with Alaska, then moving to Africa, and then on to Burma. She
notices that the soldier stares at her as if he shares a secret scheme
with her. He speaks and makes no sense. He asks her "Who is a cute
dish?" She sees no dishes on the table and so ignores his question.
She realizes the man thinks she is much older than she is. She tries light
subjects. He begins to walk his fingers across the table toward her. His
fingers are dirty. Some other soldiers come in and he removes his hand
from the table. She repeats the sentence that the monkey was darling.
He can’t remember a monkey. He tells her he is very tired. F. Jasmine
wonders for the first time what she’s doing there. He asks her for a date
at nine o’clock. She agrees to meet him at the same cafe then.
Outside, F. Jasmine walks along the sidewalks until the wedding feeling
is recovered. She buys wedding clothes. Then she walks home and on the
way, encounters an accident. She suddenly pictures Janice and Jarvis as
they had sat in the living room that day. She feels the image so strongly
that she thinks they must be there behind her in the alley. She knows,
though, that they are in Winter Hill. She turns around and sees two African-American
boys, one older than the other, talking to each other. Something about
the angle of the way they stood reminded her of Janice and Jarvis. She
arrives home by two o’clock.
Frankie’s transformation into F. Jasmine is felt more by her than by
her reader. Frankie has always had a strong sense of the dramatic. This
day she seems to have convinced herself more fully of her role than she
has in the past convinced even her audiences. McCullers captures the pathos
of Frankie’s bumbling progress into adulthood as Frankie goes around town
dressed in a party dress with thick lipstick telling strangers of her
plans to marry her brother and his fiancee and go with them on their honeymoon.
No one answers her, thus enabling her to continue in her delusion that
she has in fact transformed into the worldly-wise F. Jasmine.
McCullers also captures the dangers girls of this age face when they
look older than they are. The red-haired soldier seems to be grappling
with demons of his own and unable to distinguish that Frankie is a twelve-year
old dressing up as a young woman. McCullers thus combines the comic and
the tragic of this stage of life, rendering Frankie’s dilemmas with feeling
but also with a friendly ironic distance.
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