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The Member of the Wedding

Carson McCullers

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full title ·  The Member of the Wedding

author · Carson McCullers

type of work · Novella

genre · Coming-of-age novella

language · English

time and place written · 1946, United States South

date of first publication · 1946

publisher · Bantam Books

narrator · Third person narrator

point of view · Third person limited: the narrator almost exclusively describes Frankie's experience and point of view. The narration is careful never to comment or editorialize on Frankie's behavior or naivete. Rather, the narrator observes Frankie with utter objectivity. At choice moments, the narrator will also describe another character's motivation or thoughts, but this is rare.

tone · The novel's tone is distinctive to each of the three main sections. The first section is more dream-like, filled with colorful imagery. The second is more circumspect. The third is more bare-bones, matter-of fact. Above all, McCullers' general tone is relatively simple and straightforward.

tense · The narrative is in past tense, and makes heavy use of flashbacks. In fact, the time frame of the story is such that the narration flashes back upon points within itself that it neglects to describe. McCullers skips over almost all of Saturday and then flashes back upon the afternoon later that day. Then, in the following chapters, she fills in all the details of what happened on Saturday.

setting (time) · The main action of the story begins during the evening of the last Friday in August 1944 and ends the evening of the following Sunday. A brief denouement covers the events that take place after that weekend, up until November. Flashbacks extend to the beginning of the summer.

setting (place) · A small Southern town

protagonist · Frankie Addams, twelve years old, who later changes her name to F. Jasmine Addams and then to Francis.

major conflict · The major conflict of the novel is an internal one: Frankie's struggles to end her childhood and to connect with not just a more adult environment, but also a more adult frame of mind. However, before she does so, she must get past some of her delusional childhood fantasies and her extreme naïveté.

rising action · The rising action is the period of fierce anticipation Frankie goes through up until the wedding of her brother

climax · The climax is the wedding itself, and the great disappointment it becomes for Frankie.

falling action · Frankie's catharsis after the wedding amounts to a fountain of tears and an eventual attempt to run away. She briefly contemplates suicide. Her plans are thwarted when the police find her and send her home. A much more rapid denouement shows Frankie rapidly maturing after the events of the weekend. John Henry's death signifies her transition into young adulthood.

themes · Sexual and emotional development; the rules of life that create divisions between people; the discrepancy between surface impressions and what lies beneath.

symbols · Eyes; ticking clocks; playing cards; dissonant piano scales.

foreshadowing · John Henry's death is foreshadowed by the metaphorical death of "the old Frankie." Frankie's eventual sexual discovery is foreshadowed by the color red in her blood and in the Soldier's hair.

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