“A last difference about that morning was the way her world seemed layered in three different parts, all the twelve years of the old Frankie, the present day itself, and the future ahead when the three of them would be together in all the many distant places.”
Frankie Addams is the bored twelve-year-old protagonist of Carson McCullers’ novel, The Member of the Wedding. Frankie’s boredom comes from the invisible prison walls that she feels trap her in her mundane existence. Though World War II rages on in the world outside, there is no part in it for her. She cannot go overseas and fight, she cannot even donate blood in support of the cause. She is trapped. When the wedding of her older brother is announced, Frankie finds herself falling in love with the idea of the wedding, with the importance that being a member of the wedding affords her, and with the hope that her brother and his wife will take her with them, out of her achingly provincial life, into a world of adventure and intrigue.
The book is divided into three parts, the past, present, and future, signified by her three different names. In the first part of the book, she is Frankie Addams, frustrated child, trapped in her boring life. In the second part, she is F. Jasmine Addams, sophisticated member of the wedding, who feels connected with the world around her, though she struggles to understand the motivations of the adults she comes into contact with. In the third section, she is Frances Addams, newly thirteen-years-old, and seems to have broken free of the chains that bind her to her dull existence.
The other main characters in the story are Berenice Sadie Brown, the black housekeeper of the Addams family, and John Henry West, her much younger cousin. Berenice is Frankie’s friend, mother figure, and confidante, and her stories of her own lost love and the trappings of being a black member of society in the South are lessons to Frankie about love and life, and serve to show how much Frankie still has to learn about life. The harshness of her background serve as a reality check to Frankie’s dreams of escape and adventure. John Henry also serves as a foil to Frankie, in his calm demeanor and old soul attitude, trapped in a very young body. While she is taken by fits of fancy, he is grounded and far more realistic.
This is a largely internal novel, concerned with evocative settings and the emotions of the characters far more than actions. What actions do occur are described as though you were seeing them from the corner of your eyes, and when you turn to face them head on, they dissapear.