The Member of the Wedding
WRITTEN BY CARSON MCCULLERS
Context
 The novel was first published in 1946
 It explores controversial issues about life in the
South (USA)
 The racism and social division that the novel
illustrates are, some argue, atypical while others
argue that it is a clear portrayal of the social divisions
existing at the time.
Context
 The tone of the novel captures the changing mood of
a generation in post-war America where a sense of
disillusionment was strong.
 The war was of course a major issue of the time, yet
very distant unless it impacted someone close to
home.
Context
 The war gave rise to a new type of adolescent who
had the ability to question the values presented to
them.
 The increasing disparity in incomes also saw a large
group of people who lived on the fringes of society
become disaffected – disillusioned and alienated.
 America itself was beginning to change with the
development of mass entertainment – we see this in
the radio which plays constantly in the kitchen.
 Genre – it is a typical, coming-of-age
(bildungsroman) story – drama – fiction
 Narration – Third person narrator almost exclusively
from the point of view of Frankie.
Characteristics of the novella
 The member of the wedding is a novella written post
WWII (1946) that explores the psychology of an
adolescent girl and the atmosphere and relations in
the southern United States.
 It tells the story of Frankie Addams in the third
person, and our protagonist is objectively described
without much authorial interjection.
 The action takes place over a number of days,
leading to the wedding of her brother Jarvis and a
brief conclusion summarises the events of the
months after the wedding.
 This novella is particularly about Frankie and the
general plot of the work is about her development as
a person. We see this though the name changes and
the three distinct parts.
 The Frankie section is filled with imagery and
awkwardness, alienation and wanting.
 The F. Jasmine part shows her growing awareness
and is less dream like
 The Francis part is more factual and certainly has
less psychological conflict.
 To assist the reader, McCullers uses descriptions of
places like Front Avenue as a backdrop to Frankie’s
emotional turmoil.
 She builds on this with the concept of time passing,
not only in the narrative flashbacks and F. Jasmine’s
reflection that her life is tripartite: past, present,
future, but also the fact that the novel itself is not
linear or chronological.
 Frankie’s personal growth is reflected in the name
changes
Motifs
 McCullers uses eyes as symbols and they recur. She
suggests that it is through the eyes that we can see
what is truly inside a person. Berenice’s eye is always
commented on
 McCullers use of card games explores the rules and
order that govern adult lives
 The piano tuner parallels Frankie’s own life being
out of tune with the world.
 Also the moth image reflects Frankie’s state of mind.
Sections of the Novel
 The novel can be divided into three main sections:
 Part 1 – confusion
 Part 2 – the day before; in the town
 Part 3 – leaving home; the wedding finale
Characters
Frankie Addams - Protagonist, 12
years old – daughter of Royal Quincy
Addams & cousin of John Henry West
 In between childhood and
adolescence/young adulthood,
Frankie feels alienated and is trying
to run away from her drab life
 Changes her name to F. Jasmine
Addams, and then Frances
John Henry West
 6 year old first cousin of Frankie
 very bright
 symbolises childhood
 very calm in contrast with Frankie
 dies at the end of the novel
 represents Frankie’s entering adolescence and leaving
childhood behind
Bernice Sadie Brown
 Addams’ family housekeeper – straight forward, “voice of reason”
Royal Quincy Addams
 Frankie’s father, a widower - fairly removed from the actions of the novel
Soldier
 unnamed, on three days leave, and after sex - represents the harsh reality of
adult life
Jarvis Addams
 Frankie’s older brother – marries Janice Evans
Identity and Belonging
 The nature of identity and people’s experiences of
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belonging to particular groups
Perceptions of self at home compared with those of self at
school
Experiences of belonging or not belonging to particular
groups
Feelings of identity with a group or culture
How individuals may be influenced by belonging to a
group or culture
Issues of national identity
Online identities established by network users in online
communities‐ Facebook etc
Belonging
Identity
 Relationships
 Career
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Family, friends, partner,
teacher, associate
 Social
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Groups, classes, clubs,
organisations, teams
 Environment
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Australia, America, countryside, nature vs. nurture
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Lawyer, nurse, politician
 Family
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Father, mother, sister, cousin
 Skills
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Athletic, intelligent, listener
 Cultural
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History, tradition, religion,
gender
 Social
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Peer group, clique, social class
Themes in The Member of the Wedding
 Isolation/Loneliness
 Identity and Self
 Connection
 Escape
 Fear
 Belonging
 Journey of Growth
 Innocence
Isolation/Loneliness
 Although Frankie is surrounded by people, she
is still not saved from the loneliness of being
12years‐old.
 Frankie feels acutely that she is missing out on
life. The moths that bang against her window
each night symbolise this sense of confinement:
 ‘To me it is the irony of fate,’ she said. ‘The way
they come here. Those moths could fly
anywhere. Yet they keep hanging around the
windows of this house.’ (pp.19–20)
Isolation/Loneliness
 What is isolation? How is it exhibited in the novel?
 List examples of isolation in the text‐
 What does this isolation represent?
 How do you know these are examples of isolation?
Identity and Self
 Frankie is a tomboy, torn between childhood and
adulthood.
 EG: Name change – giving voice to her changing identity.
Name change back to Frances. Is she coming to terms
with herself as a maturing young woman who can
determine her own identity within the parameters of
social expectations?
 Through Frankie, we can see that an individual’s identity
can change depending on how they perceive their
position in the social hierarchy.
 Our identities are often formed in response to changes
occurring around us.
 In what ways does the wedding prompt Frankie to question her
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identity?
Can an individual accept change more easily if they have others to offer
guidance and support?
While Frankie never knew her mother, the death had a large impact on
her family. How do you think being motherless has influenced
Frankie’s identity?
Can a sense of feeling isolated sometimes prompt individuals to reach
out to others?
List some examples of a character searching for identity.
Whose identity is changing in the novel?
Why is their identity being changed? Is it necessary?
Think about why it was necessary for Frankie to make the transition to
F. Jasmine‐ What does it represent?
Think about instances where people question their identity. What helps
to define identity?
Connection
 Consider the relationship between Frankie and Berenice
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& Frankie and John Henry. How do these compare to her
relationship with her father?
What does it mean to have a connection with someone?
How do people connect with each other/ disconnect with
each other?
How does Frankie connect to people? Why does she feel
disconnected?
How do Frankie and Berenice connect?
How do Frankie and John Henry connect? How do
Frankie and Royal Quincy Addams connect?
Escape
 Physical/ emotional/ mental
 Frankie escaping her real world situations/ running away
from home.
 Why do characters want to escape?
 Does everyone want to escape for the same reasons?
 What do you think the characters need in order to
escape?
 How do they ultimately escape?
 Discuss the reasons that Frankie and the other identified
characters choose their particular methods for escape.
 What things made the escape easy? What things
complicated the escape?
Fear
 Frankie’s adolescent fears‐ That she will grow to 9 feet tall.
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Later that she is a murderer.
Afraid of the dark.
Changes in herself‐ Growing up is very challenging ‐ not an
instant process. Frankie tries to transform her appearance
and changes her name to F. Jasmine but her encounter with
the soldier highlights how innocent she really is.
Afraid of her isolation.
Fear of rejection‐ Frankie’s desperation to belong to a new
group stems from her fear of being labelled an outsider – a
fear that is heightened because everyone except her seems to
belong somewhere. This intensifies her longing to fit in and
leads her to imagine a solution to her loneliness.
Fear
 “…….with somebody sleeping in the dark
with her, she was not so much afraid”.
 “It was the Summer of fear.”
Belonging
 Frankie is struggling with who she is, who she was as a child
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and who she will become
She is alienated and alone in the world. Typical adolescent
crisis? Too young to help the war effort but too big to sleep
with Papa anymore.
The outer side of the theme of identity‐ “She belonged to no
club and was a member of nothing in the world.”
Idea of: Who am I as an individual? Who am I in relation to
others?
Frankie‐ Not included in the summer club with
neighbourhood girls
Lacks a sense of family‐ Her family unit is her, Berenice and
John Henry.
Her brother Jarvis and Janice‐ “the we of me”
 Why is it important to Frankie to choose where she
belongs? What value does she see in being a member
of a chosen group?
 Frankie imagines she will travel the world with
Jarvis and Janice, but this proves a fantasy. What
role do imaginary groups play in forming our
identities?
 In Jarvis and Janice, Frankie initially believes that
she has found a group who will respect her
individuality. They will make her feel as if she
belongs but will not ask her to change.
Journey of Growth
 Frankie’s inner quest to grow/ develop. She is frustrated and
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impatient‐ waiting for something better.
Symbolism of physical travel to the wedding.
Frankie is on an inner quest to grow and develop into a young adult.
She is frustrated and restless, impatient waiting for something
better.
The quest is often symbolized by a physical journey, such as
travelling to the wedding.
At the wedding Frankie must really ‘grow up’ and feel the pain of
her delusional belief that she would be able to tag along with the
married couple.
Journeys of inner growth often feature loss, painful realizations as
turning points.
John Henry’s abrupt death symbolizes Frankie’s transition into
young adulthood and leaving her childhood behind.
Innocence
 Frankie’s encounter with the soldier.
 Her physical changes‐ puberty.
 The death of John Henry.
 What events in the novel, The Member of the
Wedding, cause Frances to lose her innocence?
 How do these events connect her to other girls her
age and make her a member of something?
 How does Frankie's innocence isolate her from the
real world?
 How is Frankie's innocence diminished?
Quotes
 Here are some interesting quotes that are relevant to
the Context of Identity and Belonging:
 “She loved her brother and the bride and she was a
member of the wedding.”
Quotes
 “Is it cold up there?”(teasing by children to Frankie)
 “It seemed to her that they had looked at her in a
secret way and tried to connect their eyes with hers,
as though to say: we know you.” (about the prisoners
in the jail)
Quotes
 “They are the we of me”.
 “We all of us somehow caught.”
(Berenice)

The Member of the wedding overview