The Member of the Wedding: Top Ten Quotes
- “It happened that green and crazy summer when Frankie was twelve years old. This was the summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and was a member of nothing in the world.” <p. 3With these words, the narrator summarizes the summer in which Frankie Addams straddles childhood and adolescence. She feels that she does not belong to either world, but she cannot go back to childhood, and she is uncertain how to advance into adolescence.
- “Then the spring of that year had been a long queer season. Things began to change and Frankie did not understand this change. After the plain gray winter the March winds banged on the windowpanes, and clouds were shirred and white on the blue sky. April that year came sudden and still, and the green of the trees was a wild bright green. The pale wisterias bloomed all over town, and silently the blossoms shattered. There was something about the green trees and flowers of April that made Frankie sad. She did not know why she was sad, but because of this peculiar sadness, she began to realize she ought to leave town. She read the war news and thought about the world and packed her suitcase to go away; but she did not know where she should go.”pp. 22-23Frankie feels a restlessness that she cannot explain. Some instinct within her feels that with the change of seasons, the new beginnings, she too should change, but she is not sure how to do so. She has realized that the world is bigger than her childish imaginings, but it is still unreal to her. She does not know how to make it real.
“The darkening town was very quiet. For a long time now her brother and the bride had been at Winter Hill. They had left the town a hundred miles behind them, and now were in a city far away. They were them and in Winter Hill, together, while she was her and in the same old town all by herself. The long hundred miles did not make her sadder and make her feel more far away than the knowing that they were them and both together and she was only her and parted from them, by herself. And as she sickened with this feeling a thought and explanation suddenly came to her, so that she knew and almost said aloud: They are the we of me. Yesterday, and all the twelve years of her life, she had only been Frankie. She was a I person who had to walk around and do things by herself. All the other people had a we to claim, all other except her. When Berenice said we, she meant Honey and Big Mama, her lodge, or her church. The we of her father was the store. All members of clubs have a we to belong to and talk about. The soldiers in the army can say we, and even the criminals on chain-gangs. But the old Frankie had had no we to claim, unless it would be the terrible summer we of her and John Henry and Berenice—and that was the last we in the world she wanted. Now all this was suddenly over with and changed. There was her brother and the bride, and it was as though when first she saw them something she had known inside of her: They are the we of me.”p. 42The narrator describes the moment when Frankie realizes that she can be a member of something, and she latches onto the wedding for that purpose. She so desperately wishes to belong somewhere and to someone, so she begins an obsession with being a member of the wedding. She sees herself as part of the trio of her brother, his bride, and herself.
“It was a feeling impossible to explain in words—and later when she tried to tell of it at home Berenice raised up her eyebrows and dragged the word in a mocking way: Connection? Connection? But nevertheless it was there, this feeling—a connection close as answers to calls.”p. 55 .When Frankie ventures into town to buy a dress for the wedding, she feels different than she did before, as a child venturing into town. She suddenly feels purposeful and connected to everyone around her. She is the member of something, just as they are the members of things, and she no longer feels alone and separate, but connected to the world.
“But although she stood ready in the doorway, she did not go. On this last evening, the last time with the three of them together in the kitchen, she felt there was some final thing she ought to say or do before she went away. For many months she had been ready to leave this kitchen, never to return again; but now that the time had come, she stood there with her head and shoulder leaning against the door jamb, somehow unready. It was the darkening hour when the remarks they made had a sad and beautiful sound, although there would be nothing sad or beautiful about the meanings of the words.”p. 112Frankie determines to go out to meet the soldier for a date on her last night home, before she becomes a member of the wedding, yet she feels a nostalgia she cannot express. It moves her, like the tune of a sad song, but she has no words for what it is that moves her. She both longs to leave her home behind, yet she cannot part with it, either.
“‘What I’ve been trying to say is this. Doesn’t it strike you as strange that I am I, and you are you? I am F. Jasmine Addams. And you are Berenice Sadie Brown. And we can look at each other, and touch each other, and stay together year in and year out in the same room. Yet always I am I, and you are you. And I can’t ever be anything else but me, and you can’t be anything else but you. Have you ever thought of that? And does it seem to you strange?’”p. 115Frankie is trying to express to Berenice why she feels so alone and separate from everything, and why she must be a member of the wedding.
“The wedding was like a dream, for all that came about occurred in a world beyond her power; from the moment when, sedate and proper, she shook hands with the grown people until the time, the wrecked wedding over, when she watched the car with the two of them driving away from her, and flinging herself down in the sizzling dust, she cried out for the last time: ‘Take me! Take me! from the beginning to the end the wedding was unmanaged as a nightmare.”p. 144Frankie discovers that her fantasies about the wedding and about being a member of the wedding are just that: fantasies. She finds that she has no part in the wedding, and that no one but herself thinks she should accompany the couple on their honeymoon.
“The night before her was like a time that had happened so long ago that the solder was unraveled in her memory. But she recalled the silence in the hotel room; and all at once a fit in a front room, the silence, the nasty talk behind the garage—these separate recollections fell together in the darkness of her mind, as shafting searchlights meet in the night sky upon an aeroplane, so that in a flash there came in her an understanding. There was a feeling of cold surprise; she stopped a minute, then went on toward the Blue Moon.”p. 155On the night that Frankie runs away, she has an epiphany in which she suddenly understands that sexuality is part of the adult world. She now sees that the soldier was expecting to sleep with her, that the couple boarding in her house was having sex, and that Barney McKean was toying with sex with her.
“She did not see the earth as in the old days, cracked and loose and turning a thousand miles an hour; the earth was enormous and still and flat. Between herself and all the places there was a space like an enormous canyon she could not hope to bridge or cross. The plans for the movies or the Marines were only child plans that would never work, and she was careful when she answered. She named the littlest, ugliest place she knew, for to run away there could not be considered so very wrong.”p. 157.When asked by a policeman where she was intending to run away to, Frankie does not say that she once planned to see the world or join the Marines or become a Hollywood actress. She has realized that those were just the impossible fantasies of a child. Instead, she names a small town because that destination does not seem so outlandish and childish.
“Still, there was some part of Frances that did not even yet believe. But on the day he was to be taken to the family graveyard in Opelika, the same place where they had buried Uncle Charles, she saw the coffin, and then she knew. He came to her once or twice in nightmare dreams, like an escaped child dummy from the window of a department store, the wax legs moving stiffly only at joints, and the wax face wizened and faintly painted, coming toward her until terror snatched her awake. But the dreams came only once or twice, and the daytime was now filled with radar, school, and Mary Littlejohn.”p. 162.Earlier in the novel, when Uncle Charles had died, Frankie had not thought twice about death and the loss it meant. Now that John Henry has died, however, she is forced to acknowledge death as adults do, as a fact, no matter how sad. And like adults, Frankie has learned to move on. She has learned not to be afraid of change.
The Member of the Wedding Study GuideChoose to Continue
- The Member of the Wedding
- Part One, pages 3-46
- Part Two, 1. pp. 49-74
- Part Two, 2., pp. 75-96
- Part Two, 2., pp. 96-111
- Part Two, 2., pp. 111-127
- Part Two, 3., pp. 123-139
- Part Three, pp.143-149
- Part Three, pp. 149-158
- Part Three, pp. 158-163
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Carson McCullers
- Essay Q&A