The Member of the Wedding
Part Two, Chapter 1
McCullers plays a very interesting trick with time in this section. In Part One, she quietly skips over the period of Saturday that spans from early morning until 5:45 PM. It is such a subtle shift that one might not even notice it immediately. In Part Two, she goes back and begins telling the story of Saturday morning and afternoon. However, she gives no indicator that she is going backwards. To make matters more confusing, she changes Frankie's name to F. Jasmine, which gives the impression that these events do take place after those of Part One. Because that part covers time which takes place after the events in Part Two, yet Frankie still goes by her original name then.
The newly formed identity of F. Jasmine has a completely different attitude about life than "the old Frankie," which is how she refers to the part of herself she thinks of as dead. This incarnation is older, more confident and feels connected with the world. She no longer feels confused, instead she is confident and excited about her plans to unify with Jarvis and Janice at their wedding.
Before he leaves for work, F. Jasmine tells her father she has to buy a dress for the wedding and he tells her to charge it. F. Jasmine expects her father to recognize the change that has taken place in her. But he is still fatherly and admonishes her sternly for meddling with his tool set. He ignores her threat that she will not return after the wedding.
F. Jasmine leaves the house and wanders the town in search of people to tell about her plans to leave town with her brother and his bride. She feels a strange, unexplainable connection to the people around her. She stops in a bar called the Blue Moon, marveling that the rules that once would have kept her out of such a place mean nothing to her anymore. She tells the Portuguese bartender about her plans. It is there that she first sees a redheaded Soldier hanging around the bar.
Stepping out again, F. Jasmine feels that her life is divided into three parts: the past, that day, and the future before her. At one point, she has a strange kind of flash forward, in which she hears the way Berenice would later describe her behavior that afternoon. This paragraph, which is entirely encapsulated with in parentheses, refers back to the time period we have already read about in Part One.
She stops by her father's jewelry store and he tells her that Uncle Charles is dead. F. Jasmine attempts to respond in an adult manner, but her father does not seem impressed.
She comes across the Soldier as he quarrels with a man as he attempts to buy the man's pet monkey. F. Jasmine makes the Soldier's acquaintance and the two go back to the Blue Moon together, where he buys her a beer. She muses about her plans, but the Soldier can seem to do little more than stare blankly and think about how to get her into bed, as we can assume, though F. Jasmine is totally in the dark about his intentions. McCullers makes two references to the color red here: once, when, in her uneasiness about the situation with the soldier, F. Jasmine sees red and again when she expresses her taste for redheads, saying red is her favorite color. The two arrange for an official date at nine p.m., back at the Blue Moon.
On the way home, in the early afternoon, F. Jasmine has a strange transcendent vision. She sees something out of the corner of her eyes and is convinced it is Janice and Jarvis, though it turns out to just be two African-American boys in an alley way.
McCullers makes a interesting statement by straying from a linear time line in this section. By meddling with our sense of the natural order of events, she brings into question a major theme of the novel, which is the adherence to rules. After all, part of growing up is learning what the rules of the world are and how to follow them. Yet McCullers warns that the rules we learn are misleading and meant to be broken. When F. Jasmine feels she has broken the rules by entering a bar, she is committing a crime of anachronism—doing something older people do when she is still young. This parallels the anachronistic shift McCullers makes in going backward in time in Part Two. What makes it anachronistic is the fact that we know that Frankie still goes by her original name later in the day on Saturday. And since the name F. Jasmine is supposed to imply a certain cognitive advancement and maturity, it does not make sense within our normal constructs of linearity that such a shift would not take place entirely in the future. Since the character of F. Jasmine is so based in fantasy, we actually begin to wonder if this period really happens at all, or if it is just a figment of Frankie's imagination. At one point, she marvels at the change in herself and thinks that, "The black dividing night has something to do with this." As if the dreams she had while sleeping have extended into her waking hours. Her belief that her life is divided into three parts seems to imply that this moment really does a kind of bubble around it, as if she exists temporarily within a glass globe, or even a dream world.
The name shift is a mere surface change, but it signifies a huge alteration of Frankie's character. Suddenly, all the loneliness and disconnectedness of Part One has vanished and she is an independent, confident young woman. The strange element of her personality shift is that there is no rational explanation for why it happened. The only thing we know of is the name change. So the logical inference we can make is that surface elements really can permeate the self and change things within. If F. Jasmine is seen as more adult-like than Frankie, than she really must be more adult-like. It is all in the eye of the beholder. However, since this section is so seeped in delusional fantasy—even the writing style is more whimsical than Part One—we are sure to see reality come crashing down on F. Jasmine's head. Before long, she will have to recognize that true self development comes from the inside out.
McCullers develops a theme in this section about dividing lines. She uses repeated physical or metaphorical examples of dividing lines. First, there is the dividing line of the black night. Then, when Frankie visits her father, McCullers writes that, "Her father went back behind the gray sour velvet curtain that divided the store into two parts, the larger public part in front and behind a small dusty private part." Another example is when he sternly tells F. Jasmine "From now on you walk the chalkline." Finally, the divisions F. Jasmine sees between the past, present and future are dividing lines. This theme is developed further in future chapters, eventually leading to a kind of resolution about the unfortunate nature of separation between human beings and the injustice of racial separation. Because what the dividing lines stand for, in F. Jasmine's mind, is the division she, as Frankie, felt between her peers and her and between her brother and his fiancée. Now she believes that those lines are gone. However, since a major element of this novella is Frankie's realization of the harsh reality of life's rules, she will soon have to accept that certain lines will always be drawn, separating us from others.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!