The Member of the Wedding: Novel Summary: Part Two, 2., pp. 96-111

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Part Two, 2., pp. 96-111

As the afternoon transitions to early evening, the three of them remain in the kitchen, eating “round two” of supper. Usually, the “three of them would sit at the table and criticize the Creator and the work of God.” John Henry reimagines creation in a fanciful, carnival way, while Berenice’s creation is ordered and just. F. Jasmine’s creation is similar to Berenice’s, but excludes summer in favor of a longer, colder winter. Today, however, they talk of something else. F. Jasmine tells them about how she thought she saw Jarvis and Janice in the alley, but it turned out to be two black boys. Berenice says she has had the same experience and is glad to hear that someone else has, too. She tells F. Jasmine, “‘Yes, that is the way when you are in love. . . . Invariably. A thing known and not spoken.’”

Berenice’s words introduce a new topic, love, that the trio has never discussed before. The old Frankie used to make fun of love, but F. Jasmine is quite interested in hearing what Berenice has to say about it. She takes one of Berenice’s cigarettes, which Berenice allows her to do, and listens as Berenice tells them the story of her and Ludie Freeman as a “warning.” She tells of their happy marriage and of Ludie’s death from illness in 1931. As F. Jasmine listens, she envisions Berenice as “a colored queen unwinding a bolt of cloth of gold—and at the end, when the story was over, her expression was always the same: the dark eye staring straight ahead, her flat nose widened and trembling, her mouth finished and sad and quiet.”

Next, Berenice tells the story of two of her other husbands, who, one after the other, turned out to be bad. But each of them reminded her of something about Ludie. “‘Why, don’t you see what I was doing?’” she asks F. Jasmine and John Henry, “‘I loved Ludie and he was the first man I loved. Therefore, I had to go and copy myself ever afterward. What I did was to marry off little pieces of Ludie whenever I come across them. It was just my misfortune they all turned out to be the wrong pieces.’”

F. Jasmine asks how Berenice’s story is a warning to her and John Henry, and Berenice tells Frankie that she is doing the same thing with her obsession over the wedding. Just as Berenice was obsessed with finding Ludie again, so will Frankie be obsessed with something she cannot have. “‘If you start out falling in love with some unheard-of thing like that, what is going to happen to you? If you take a mania like this, it won’t be the last time and of that you can be sure. So what will become of you? Will you be trying to break into weddings the rest of your days?’”

F. Jasmine does not believe her. She insists that she will go away with Jarvis and Janice. She claims that Berenice is just jealous. Outside, the piano tuner finishes tuning the piano in the neighborhood. F. Jasmine then asks Berenice about her last husband, Willis Rhodes. Berenice begins in a dramatic voice and suddenly stops, realizing she is talking to children. F. Jasmine is insulted that she considers her to be a child just like John Henry. But she softens towards Berenice when she sees that Berenice re-ironed the collar on the pink dress, properly, as F. Jasmine had asked.


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