Regarded by many critics as Carson McCullers’s most accessible work, The Member of the Wedding is a sensitive portrayal of twelve-year-old Frankie Addams. McCullers was able to finish the novel with the help of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, and several summers at Yaddo, a writers’ colony in New York. Much of the material for the novel is autobiographical. The town in which Frankie lives is based on McCullers’s hometown of Columbus, Georgia. McCullers’s father, like Frankie’s, was a jeweler, and her family had employed African- American servants in her childhood home. Many of Frankie’s feelings of awkwardness are drawn from McCullers’s own memories of what it was like to be twelve years old. She, like Frankie, felt like a gangly misfit whose tomboyish ways made it difficult to fit in with boys or girls her age.
At the urging of her friend Tennessee Williams, McCullers’s adapted the novel into a play. The play was highly successful, opening on Broadway in 1950 and lasting for fourteen months and 501 performances. In addition, the play received a number of prestigious awards. Despite the popular and critical success of the play, most critics agree that some of the insight into the characters is lost on the stage. It is just such insights, along with believable characters, a smooth writing style, and an unsentimental tone that continue to impress readers and critics alike.