The Member of the Wedding: Novel Summary: Part Two, 2., pp. 111-127

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Part Two, 2., pp. 111-127

In the evening, the three are still in the kitchen. Although she has things to do before the wedding trip, F. Jasmine lingers unaccountably in the kitchen. She asks Berenice why it is against the law to simply change one’s name. Berenice says that names have meanings attached to them, reputations. When F. Jasmine asks what reputation has “accumulated” around her name, Frankie, Berenice cannot quite say. F. Jasmine says, “‘Nothing! See? My name just didn’t mean anything.’” Berenice tells her that it will, however. Just to give it time.

F. Jasmine then announces that she has a mind to get Big Mama to tell her fortune before she goes off the Winter Hill. Yet she lingers, listening to sounds of the neighborhood in the evening: a piano, a radio, children playing. Suddenly, F. Jasmine asks if Berenice ever thinks about how each person is an individual, how “‘I am I, and you are you,’” no matter what. Berenice seems to think she knows what F. Jasmine is saying, but F. Jasmine cannot say exactly what she means. She tries again: “‘I see a green tree. And to me it is green. And you would call the tree green also. And we would agree on this. But is the color you see as green the same color I see as green?’”

Berenice says one cannot prove such a thing. So, F. Jasmine tries another way to express herself. “‘You are walking down a street and you meet somebody. Anybody.  And you look at each other. And you are you. And he is him. Yet when you look at each other, the eyes make a connection. Then you go off one way. And he goes off another way. You go into different parts of town, and maybe you ever see each other again. Not in your whole life. Do you see what I mean?’”

“‘But who do you want to know?’” Berenice asks. “‘Everybody. In the world. Everybody in the world,’” F. Jasmine answers. She grows frustrated when “from her heart the unknown words flowered and bloomed and she waited to name them,” but she cannot tell them exactly right, so that Berenice understands her. She begins to talk really fast, naming all the places she and Jarvis and Janice will go in the world. “‘And we will meet them. Everybody. We will just walk up to people and know them right away,’” she proclaims. Berenice grabs her as she dances wildly through the kitchen and holds her to calm her down. John Henry, jealous, wants to be held, too. He says that he is sick. Finally, Berenice says she thinks she understands that F. Jasmine is saying that everyone is “caught” in their destiny, no matter what. F. Jasmine says she does not want to be caught; she wants to bust free. Berenice points out that people like herself and Honey Brown are caught because they are black. The struggle against being caught is harder for them.

F. Jasmine says that individuals may be caught, but at the same time they seem “loose,” going around not knowing “‘where they all came from, or where they’re going to.’” In frustration she further explains, “‘But what is it all about? People loose and at the same time caught. Caught and loose. All these people and you don’t know what joins them up. There’s bound to be some sort of reason and connection. Yet somehow I can’t seem to name it. I don’t know.’” In a final attempt to explain herself clearly, F. Jasmine says that time is moving; a minute passes, and it will never come again.

In the dark kitchen, with these somber thoughts, the three of them begin to cry, each for different reasons. Then Berenice stands and flicks on the light, and the gloom is broken. Mr. Addams comes home from work. “Already the moths were at the window, flattening their wings against the screen, and the final kitchen afternoon was over at last.”


Language and the meaning of words is especially important in these two sections. Frankie has realized that words carry great power, but she does not understand that they also reflect realities. Like a child, she wishes to change her name so she can become another character. Berenice, however, points out that “‘things accumulate around your name . . . so that soon the name begins to have a meaning.’” She also points out that Frankie simply has not lived long enough to accumulate much around her name; she is still a work in progress.

Berenice’s stories about her husbands further show the power of words in relation to reality. Frankie is still, in so many ways, a child enthralled by stories, especially those that have a moral that applies to growing up. The stories the Berenice tells, however, are based in reality, but the story of the wedding that Frankie tells herself is based on fantasy. That she has no real stories yet frustrates Frankie, who begins to talk crazily, as if telling it will make it true, like Berenice’s stories. She speaks as if she is trying to break out with words, yet she cannot say exactly what she wants to. She does not have the words yet.

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