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FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE - THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING
Frances is dressed in her Swiss dress and carrying her suitcase down the stairs
at six in the morning. She has her wedding dress in her suitcase, ready
to be worn in Winter Hill. She leaves with her father, Berenice, and John
Henry on the bus and at first sits apart from them so she seems more like
an "accustomed traveler." She is disappointed that they seem
to be traveling south rather than north. The towns get smaller and poorer
as they travel. They change buses at the smallest and ugliest town, called
The wedding is like a dream, "for all that came about occurred
in a world beyond her power. From the first to the last, when the couple
drove off together, after the "wrecked wedding." It all seems
like a nightmare. She flings herself down and yells "Take me! Take
me!" By the afternoon, it is all over and they are on the bus homeward
Frances sits on the bus crying hard wanting the whole world to die.
She sits in the back of the bus next to Berenice. For the first time in
her life she uses the word "nigger" in her thoughts. John Henry
had enjoyed every minute of the wedding, including the misery at the end.
Frances hates him completely as he sits dressed in his white suit stained
with strawberry ice cream in the front of the bus with her father. She
hates herself worse than she hates everyone else in the world.
Berenice tries to coax her into cheering up. John Henry jokes with her
for having been put out of the wedding. Frances sits bunched up thinking
over the moments of the wedding. It was like the bridge games she had
played with Berenice and John Henry at the beginning of the summer. No
one could win because the cards were all poor. Finally John Henry had
admitted to having cut out the jacks and then the queens to keep the jacks
company. Frances canít point out single faults in the wedding, but knows
it was all wrong. Janiceís parents along with most of the adults there
who spoke to her asked her several times what grade she was in. She had
wanted to speak to Janice and Jarvis to tell them her plans, but could
never find the right moment. She had stood in the brideís room as her
friends surrounded her and helped her get dressed and wanted to say "you
are the we of me. Please take me with you from the wedding, for we belong
to be together." She never could find the moment for it, though.
The bride hadnít even worn a wedding dress. She had worn a day suit.
When Janiceís father brought their suitcases down, Frances had hurried
to get her own suitcase and the rest was like a "nightmare in which
a wild girl in the audience breaks onto the stage to take upon herself
an unplanned part that was never written or meant to be." She had
called out "Take me!" and gotten into the car. They had pleaded
with her and finally they pulled her out by force.
Berenice interrupts her thoughts to tell her school will soon begin
and she will be in the A section of the seventh grade and will meet a
lot of nice new children. Frances tells her it was all a joke and that
she had never planned to go with the couple. Berenice tells her she has
planned a party for Frances. She will have a "lovely bridge party"
inside and outside they will have a rough party in the back yard. Berenice
suggests that she could call the society editor of the Evening Journal
to announce the party and then her name would have been in the paper
four times. Frankie remembers the last time her name was in the paper.
It was misprinted "Fankie." John Henry tells her they can go
home and put up a teepee in the back yard. Frances ignores both of them.
Frances decides that even though the wedding hadnít included her, she
would still go into the world. "If she could not go in the way she
had planned, safe with her brother and the bride, she would go, anyway."
She even thinks about the soldier. Then she thinks of dressing like a
boy and joining the Marines. She writes a letter that night in her room
to her father. She tells him her "life has become a burden"
and she will leave home now. She asks him not to try to capture her and
asks him to tell Berenice not to worry about her. She waits for everyone
to go to sleep and then she tip-toes to her fatherís room and takes his
money, only three dollars, and his pistol. She hears John Henry calling
her as she gets to the door. She tells him to go to sleep and she will
be there by the time he wakes up. Her father wakes up and Frances runs.
Since her father didnít have as much money as she had hoped, she decides
she will have to jump a box car, but as soon as she thinks of it, she
realizes she doesnít know how. She doesnít know where she should go. The
streets are "lonesome and idle." She walks for a long time and
then, not wanting to attract notice walking around town with a suitcase,
she stops in the ally behind Finnyís Place. When she sits down, she realizes
she has been holding the pistol in her hand the whole time. She thinks
she should shoot herself. She points the pistol to the side of her head
and holds it there for a minute or two. She thinks of death as a blackness
that would go on forever. She puts the pistol in her suitcase. She remembers
this is the alley where Lon Baker was killed. They had slit his throat.
She thinks of the red-haired soldier she had killed. She thinks of running
away with the organ grinder and his monkey. She sees a cat and calls out
to it, hoping itís Charles/Charlina, but it runs away. She remembers Big
Mamaís fortune. All its elements have already come true. She thinks of
going to Big Mama to get another future.
She reaches the point where "any sudden idea seems a good idea."
She thinks again of the soldier and decides that if heís not dead, she
should marry him and go away with him. She hurries along to the Blue Moon.
When she gets inside, she sits down. She is not there long when Officer
Wylie comes in and tells her they have been looking for her. As he talks
to her, she notices the red-haired soldier walking up the stairs and realizes
she hadnít killed him after all. She isnít sure yet what she has been
captured for, whether it was for her crimes of the spring and summer.
He tells her to sit there while he talks on the phone. When he comes back,
she tells him she had been planning to go to Flowering Branch. He tells
her that her father had called the police about her and they had been
looking ever since. She is upset that it was her father who had gotten
the police to catch her. She would feel better if she were being caught
for one of her crimes and being taken to jail where she could bang on
walls that were visible to the eye. She begins to feel separate from everyone
again and the feeling terrifies her. She tries to make eye contact with
people in the bar to no avail. Finally her father comes in the door.
Frances never speaks of the wedding again. The season has changed and
Frances has turned thirteen. It is the last afternoon Berenice will work
for them. Frances and her father are going to live with Aunt Pet and Uncle
Eustace. The kitchen has been renovated and all of John Henryís pictures
are long since painted off the wall. The thought of John Henry brings
a hush on Francesís thoughts. The same thing happened when anyone mentioned
Honey. He has been sentenced to eight years.
Frances is in the kitchen making sandwiches for Marry Littlejohn who
is coming at five oíclock. Berenice is sitting at the kitchen table wearing
an old raveled sweater with the "little pinched fox fur that Ludie
had given her many years ago" in her lap. Mary is coming to spend
the night and ride in the van to the new house tomorrow. Mary and Frances
read poets like Tennyson together. Mary plans to become a famous painter
and Frances a great poet or the foremost authority on radar. They will
travel the world together.
Berenice repeats Maryís name a couple of times. She doesnít like her.
Mary has long braids and she sucks the ends of them. The Littlejohns are
Catholics and Berenice has acquired a sudden narrow-mindedness. For Frances,
the fact adds a touch of strangeness and silent terror which completes
"the wonder of love." She tells Berenice she couldnít possibly
understand Mary. She sees her words have hurt Berenice. She tells Berenice
she is happy that Mary has picked her out to be her best friend. Berenice
says she has never said anything against Mary except that her habit of
sucking her pigtails makes Berenice nervous.
Berenice sits hunched over. The changes that have happened since the
middle of October have been many. Frances had met Mary. Honey broke into
a drugstore and was locked up in jail awaiting trial. Berenice had done
all she could to raise money for a lawyer. She had come in worn out from
all the worry and work and said she had a head ache. John Henry had laid
his head on the table saying he did too and no one paid attention to him,
thinking he was just imitating Berenice. He had meningitis. After ten
days of torturous pain, he was dead. Frances was never allowed to visit
him. Berenice nursed him every day and came home with stories that Frances
couldnít believe. After he had screamed in pain for three days, "his
eyeballs were walled up in a corner stuck and blind. He lay there finally
with his head drawn back in a buckled way," too weak to scream any
Berenice had continued to work on getting Honey a lawyer. She always
says she doesnít know what she had done to deserve having Honey in jail
and John Henry suffering so much. They had buried John Henry in the same
graveyard as the one Uncle Charles had been buried in. John Henry came
to Frances twice in nightmare dreams. Her days were filled with other
things, radar, school, and Mary Littlejohn.
Frances tells Berenice her father has gotten a letter from Jarvis from
Luxembourg. She tells Berenice she plans to visit Luxembourg on her way
around the world with Mary. She looks out the window and then turns around
saying "I am simply mad about---" when the doorbell rings.
The narrator begins to call Frankie by her formal name, Frances, in
this section, indicating a change in Frankieís maturity. The changes that
mark Francesís newfound maturity are varied. She is about to lose her
mother figure when Berenice leaves the employ of the Addams family, but
in a sense she has already lost Berenice to worry over Honey in jail and
grief over John Henryís death. Moreover, in growing up, she has lost the
constant need she formerly had of Bereniceís mothering. She has lost her
childhood friend John Henry and has learned that there is no justice in
the world. John Henry suffered a horrible end, wracked with pain, when
he had done nothing to deserve it. Honey, Bereniceís nephew who never
fit in anywhere, has been locked up in jail for a petty crime and all
his potential will be bled away in the years of his incarceration. Berenice
has lost her spirit, sitting slackly at the kitchen table voicing anti-Catholic
bigotry when once she was the only one in Francesís life who spoke of
the oneness of humanity. On the other hand, Frances is euphoric over a
new friendship with Mary Littlejohn. She now belongs.
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