McCullers captures tween angst with clarity and delivers it without asking for sympathy, but perhaps hoping for understanding. The Member of the Wedding seems a simple tale of a young girl anticipating the wedding of her brother, but it is much more and delivers it in that slow southern style with the occasional closed fist banging on a table to jar you into awareness.
Like the sense of hearing in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, this time McCullers symbol was the sense of sight; Berenice’s glass eye, John Henry’s glasses, and Mr. Addams’ loupe. Clearly, most are blind when it comes to self-awareness.
Frankie Addams is a 12-year-old girl who is beginning to see life in a different way. She is self-absorbed and temperamental and lacks compassion for others. As she prepares for her brother’s upcoming wedding, she believes he will take her to lieve with him and his bride, allowing her to leave her home without a care. She is the young girl whose agonies are easily related to.
The Addams housekeeper, Berenice Sadie Brown is a woman whose wisdom is wasted on young Frankie. She seems to understand the troubles of youth, but draws the line at extreme behavior. She is the marrying kind as she’s wed four times, but can’t seem to recreate the first that left her a widow. Her eye is gouged out by another abusive husband leaving her with one glass eye, but she continues to consider marrying again. Keen to racial inequality and aware of the effects of the war, she sees more with one eye than most do with two.
Sweet John Henry West is Frankie’s six-year-old cousin. He is subjected to indifference by his cousin and seems not to be taken too seriously. I would say he was an underdeveloped character, but I believe that was intentional so as not to get the reader too enamored of someone who would break your heart in the end.
I would love to roam down a main street with Ms. McCullers and stop in a cafe where we would chat about inane things, such as the weather and build up to a deeper level and discuss how she managed to create great works through such personal struggles.
My rating for The Member of the Wedding is a 9 out of 10.
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