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LITERATURE NOTES - THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING
After a while, Berenice gets hold of F. Jasmine and pulls her close so she’s sitting on her lap and resting her head on Berenice’s shoulder. John Henry gets jealous and says he’s sick. Berenice tells him to stop grudging his cousin a little bit of love. Berenice holds F. Jasmine and tells her they are all somehow caught, born into an identity, and unable to change it. She tells F. Jasmine she’s caught worse because she’s a Black woman in America. She says everyone is caught in some way, but "they done drawn completely extra bounds around all colored people. They done squeezed us off in one corner by ourselves." She adds that sometimes a boy like Honey feels so squeezed in that he feels like he has to break something or break himself. F. Jasmine wishes Honey could do something for himself and she adds that she, too, feels sometimes as if she could break something. She says she felt that when she lived with Ludie, she was trying to "widen [herself] free," but after all, she was caught and could do nothing about it. F. Jasmine understands what Berenice is saying. She says she also feels sometimes that in addition to being caught, people are somehow loose. The people she sees around her look loose as if she can’t see what joins them together. She wants to know what the reason and connection is. Berenice says she would only know that if she were God.
Berenice tells F. Jasmine she has the sharpest set of bones of anyone she knows. F. Jasmine knows this is a hint for her to get off Berenice’s lap, but she wants to stay a little longer. She says she was trying to express the idea that they are sitting there now and this minute is passing and will never come back.
Before they realize it, they are all three crying. It’s like they’ve done
sometimes when they’re sitting around the kitchen and suddenly they all
start to sing a song. Sometimes they even sing different songs at first
and then wind up singing the same song together. They’ve never started
crying before. They all have different reasons for crying. John Henry
is crying because he’s jealous and because there’s a rat behind the wall.
Berenice is crying because of their talk about African Americans or about
Ludie or about how sharp F. Jasmine’s bones are. F. Jasmine is crying
because she has a crew cut or because her elbows are rusty. Suddenly they
stop crying and F. Jasmine gets up and turns on the light. They blink
in the unaccustomed light and wipe their faces. Then the door opens and
Mr. Addams comes in. The "final kitchen afternoon is over at last."
In this chapter, the reader gets a glimpse of the intimacy between Frankie and Berenice. Berenice has told Frankie and John Henry about her life over and over again until Frankie can sense when Berenice is thinking about someone from her past. Here, McCullers suggests the power of stories for building connections between people. In fact, connection is one of Frankie’s preoccupations in this chapter. She felt a connection when she walked around the town and saw people. Now that she is planning to leave the town, she’s feeling the connections she’s never thought about before.
When Frankie tells Berenice about her experience in seeing something out of the corner of her eye, Berenice exclaims that Frankie has put her thoughts into words. This is the first time Frankie and Berenice have had a moment together of intimate communion, as if Frankie is on the same level of maturity as Berenice. It is a shift for a moment into adulthood. Frankie will go back to being a child, but for a moment, she sees what it is like to be an adult woman talking to another woman.
Frankie is an artist figure. The novel is something of a portrait of the artist as a young girl. McCullers hints at this theme only obliquely. Frankie writes "shows," something like plays. She writes them and performs them in the front yard. She has a flair for the dramatic in all aspects of her life. She dresses up in a Mexican hat and goes around town speaking bits and pieces of Spanish, attracting crowds of children. She and her friend Evelyn dress up in costume and go out together. In this chapter, McCullers shows that Frankie’s mentor in words is Berenice. Berenice tells stories in a kind of trance-like song. She paints such vivid pictures of her life with Ludie that Frankie feels she knows him better than any other dead person of her experience.
Berenice’s idea of people being caught in an identity or a role in society is one of the great insights of this novel. She brings this idea up in response to Frankie’s musings on identity, the strange thing she sees in the fact that no matter how close people are to each other, they will always maintain their separate identities and, no matter how long they live, they will always remain the same person. For Berenice, the sense of identity is figured in a metaphor of entrapment. She recognizes the fact that African Americans are more entrapped because of the system of racism prevalent in the United States. Frankie understands Berenice’s idea and, as a child, she can see some of what African Americans go through in living under racism. She is trapped in a role she doesn’t want and she cannot escape it. Frankie adds another idea to this one, though, the idea that people are loosely connected and that the thread that connects them is unfathomable.
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. 09 May 2017