The Member of the Wedding: Novel Summary: Part Two, 1. pp. 49-74
Part Two, 1. pp. 49-74
F. Jasmine goes into town on Saturday, the day before the wedding. She rises early and puts on her pink organdie Sunday dress, lipstick, and perfume. She greets her father, for whom she no longer bears a grudge for making her sleep in her own room, and announces that she will not return home after the wedding. When he says nothing, she announces that she must go buy a dress for the wedding. He nods. She thinks about how lonely he will be when she is gone.
F. Jasmine leaves the house. As she does so, she hears the neighborhood children and feels a bit nostalgic, because she will never again run with them or dig holes or run her lemonade stand. Everyone she passes on her way to down town seems connected to her somehow because now she belongs somewhere and can tell them so. She hears the Monkey Man grinding music for his monkey, and she sets out to find him so she can tell him about the wedding. She ends up near the river, on Front Avenue, a rather seedy part of town frequented by the soldiers of a nearby camp. F. Jasmine goes in a bar, the Blue Moon, because now she is no longer a child and can go in such places. She orders coffee and begins to tell the bar owner about the wedding. Then she spies a red-headed soldier. “Later, on thinking back, she tried to recall some warning hint of future craziness—but at the time he looked to her like any other solider standing at the counter drinking beer.” He sees her, too, and in that look she feels that connection again, as if she now belongs in the world and among people like him. He looks away, however, and she leaves the Blue Moon.
As F. Jasmine ventures all over town, she feels three things. First, she feels that she wants “to be recognized for her true self.” Second, she hears inner music that she seems to keep time with as she walks. Third, she feels like three people: the old Frankie, the present F. Jasmine, and the future member of the trio of Jarvis, Janice, and Jasmine. As she tells various people she encounters—a woman sweeping, a tractor man, folks in the colored part of town—about the wedding, “the telling of the wedding had an end and a beginning, a shape like a song.” She grows hot and tired and enters her father’s jewelry store, where she learns that Uncle Charles is dead. She does not really care, however, because she has the wedding to think about.
F. Jasmine leaves when she hears the Monkey Man again. She finds him, but she also finds him arguing with the soldier from the Blue Moon, who seems to want to buy the monkey. The monkey is frightened and climbs up on F. Jasmine when she walks up. She unwittingly provides a diversion so that the Monkey Man can coax the monkey down and then walk away with it. The soldier, angry at first, suddenly notices F. Jasmine in her best dress and black pumps. He invites her to walk with him, and she begins to chatter about the wedding to him. She gets the feeling, however, that he is not really listening; he seems more intent on sneaking looks at her. He asks if she goes dancing, and she suddenly realizes that she is walking with a solider, just like those grown up girls do at night. She pictures herself going dancing, like them. But she feels uneasy, too, and she is not sure why.
The soldier walks her to the Blue Moon, which he calls a “hotel,” although F. Jasmine had never noticed that it had rooms upstairs. They sit in a booth, and he orders drinks. She tries to make proper small talk, and as she talks about traveling around the world, she imagines herself doing so with Jarvis and Janice. “Because of the wedding, these distant lands, the world, seemed altogether possible and near” to her. The soldier finishes his beer and begins to talk “double talk” that F. Jasmine does not quite understand. She realizes that he thinks she is older than she is; she gets the feeling that he is saying one thing but means another. She announces that she has to go home, and before she goes he asks her for a date that night. F. Jasmine, a little drunk, agrees.
F. Jasmine goes to the store and buys her dress for the wedding. Then, walking home, she thinks she sees Jarvis and Janice in an alley—just a glimpse of them. When she looks again, she sees that in the alley are only two black boys. She is home by two o’clock.
Frankie has shed her childish, tomboyish nickname and assumed the grown-up-sounding F. Jasmine, a blend of her true initial, f, and her new and fanciful name, Jasmine. Just like she is trying on a new name, Frankie is also trying on a new role, that of young lady.
The narrator’s description of how Frankie dresses herself creates the impression that she is “playing” dress up, although in her mind she is not playing but being grown up. She used to wear outlandish costumes for play, and she was eccentric enough to wear a Mexican sombrero around town. Before she goes out, Frankie makes calling cards; she puts on “her green visor eyeshade” and sticks pens behind her ears while she makes the cards; she seems to need a costume change in order to be different characters. This costume does not see quite right, however, and she soon changes it for “her most grown and best, the pink organdie, and [she] put on lipstick and Sweet Serenade,” an altogether different get-up than her usual costumes.
In her new costume, and assuming the persona of a new character, a member of the wedding, Frankie heads to town, and along the way she tells the wedding news to anyone who will listen. The narrator is careful not to reveal much about the reactions of the people Frankie accosts, except from Frankie’s perspective. In her mind, the colored man on the wagon sees her for what she is, a member of the wedding. Others, she thinks, see her now, and what they must see is a worldly young lady.
The soldier, ironically, is the only one to really see her. Frankie herself has dresses as a grown up without really understanding what being a grown up entails, but the soldier sees the lipstick, the legs in the pumps, the eagerness that he mistakes for flirting. He sees a woman hiding behind the child and behind the costume, and he proceeds on that assumption. Frankie tries to play the role of a grown up, yet when he actually speaks to her like a grown up, she does not understand his “double talk.”