I had never actually read McCullers (of course, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is on my list) before Fai, SBC, and Gurms told me I ought to read "The Member of the Wedding" with them, both because it's written from the point-of-view of an early adolescent girl-- a point-of-view I'm still trying to "make work"--and because I really ought to get back to the blogging thing, too. So, of course, I said yes, and here I sit, a few weeks after meeting over biscuits and tea to discuss, sharing the most adorable picture of flower-girls I've come across in all my months of wedding planning.
The photo is misleading, though. It pre-dates the story of Frankie Addams by at least ten years (she is eager to go to the Front in WWII), and "The Member of the Wedding" takes place in the American South, not Ireland. Still, I like to think that the photo above is the kind of thing Frankie imagines when she develops a deep "crush" on her older brother's wedding, which is to take place a few days after the short novel begins.
For Frankie, her brother's wedding represents the chance to escape a town and a life to which she no longer seems to belong: "This was the summer "when Frankie was sick and tired of being Frankie. She hated herself, and had become a loafer and a big no-good who hung around the summer kitchen: dirty and greedy and mean and sad" (274).
In one sense, Frankie's summer after the seventh grade seems entirely normal. Those pre-teenage and teenage years are heightened for us all, and when we get over them and look back it's easy to dismiss our longings and confusions as hormones. But whether or not they are true in some sense, it is more interesting to engage those memories of high emotions, and certainly, it is engaging to witness McCullers sit with Frankie's.
What seems to disturb Frankie most is recognizing her individuality, her almost irreparable separateness from the world. Here she is on WWII: "She was not afraid of Germans or bombs or Japanese. She was afraid because in the war they would not include her, and because the world seemed somehow separate from herself" (275).
To me this seems quite an adult worry, a first encounter with the truth we all live to learn with and to ignore most of the time: the world spins without us, and we are encased as much as we are connected. Frankie's recognition is all the more moving because of the fantastic way she imagines she can fix it (the wedding, and subsequent travel with her brother and his new wife will transfigure her, she thinks) and because no one around her, not her small friend John Henry, not her father, not the maid and nanny Berenice, can confirm that her longing is true.
Plus: Incredible cover art
This short novel was a Broadway play!