Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In the summer of her twelfth year, Frankie Addams feels isolated and disconnected. She is a lanky girl with a crew haircut and skinned elbows. Some of the older girls she has played with the year before have a neighborhood club, and there are parties with boys on Saturday nights, but Frankie is not a participant. That summer, she gets herself into so much trouble that at last she just stays home with John Henry West, her little cousin, and Berenice Sadie Brown, the Addams’s cook. Through long, hot afternoons, they sit in the dingy, sad Addams kitchen and play cards or talk until their words sound strange, with little meaning.
Berenice Sadie Brown is short and black and the only mother Frankie has ever known, her own mother having died when she was born. The cook has been married four times, and during one of her marriages, she lost an eye while fighting with a worthless husband. Now she owns a blue glass eye that always interests John Henry West. He is six years old and wears gold-rimmed glasses. Sometimes Frankie grows tired of him and sends him home. Sometimes she begs him to stay all night. Everything seems so mixed up that she seldom knows what she wants.
Then, on the last Friday in August, something happens that makes life wonderful once more. Frankie’s brother, Jarvis, a soldier home from Alaska, has come to dinner with Janice Evans, a girl who lives at Winter Hill. They are to be married there on Sunday, and Frankie and her father...
(The entire section is 1213 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In The Member of the Wedding, attention is concentrated on twelve-year-old Frankie Addams, her six-year-old cousin John Henry West, and Berenice Sadie Brown, a middle-aged black housekeeper. Their card-playing, eating, and talking in the kitchen during the last weekend of August constitute most of the action. It has been a bad summer for Frankie. Her best friend has moved away, she is too big to curl up beside her father in bed, and she belongs to no group. A lonely heart, she searches for “the we of me.” In part 1, she latches onto the notion that she can join her brother and his bride after their wedding.
In part 2, she changes her name to F. Jasmine Addams and begins to believe that she belongs. She senses a fellow feeling with everyone she meets in town, including a soldier who buys her a drink at the Blue Moon and makes a date with her for that night.
Back home in the kitchen that afternoon, Berenice argues against Frankie’s plans for the wedding. To show how foolishly people are served by unrealistic ideas of love, she tells of her four marriages. The first had been blissful, but, widowed, she married a succession of no-good men simply because they reminded her of her first husband. The last husband gouged out one of her eyes in a fight. Berenice’s deep voice draws sympathy if not understanding from Frankie. Sometimes they break into song together, with John Henry’s high notes sailing overhead and Frankie’s voice...
(The entire section is 577 words.)
Frankie Addams is an awkward twelve-yearold tomboy who is out of school for the summer. She lives with her widower father (her mother died in childbirth) and an African-American housekeeper named Berenice. Her father, who is seldom home, runs a successful jewelry store in the small mill town where they live. Berenice, as a result, is closer to a parental figure for Frankie than is her father. Frankie’s six-year-old cousin, John Henry, often spends the days and nights with Frankie.
Frankie feels like a misfit because she is so tall, has cropped hair, and is no longer included in the group of slightly older neighborhood girls. At the same time, she is at a point in her adolescence where she begins struggling with her identity and self-esteem. Frankie reads about the events of World War II and imagines the adventures of soldiers all over the world. She wants to be a part of it because she desperately wants to be a part of something she can easily define. Her brother, Jarvis, is stationed in Alaska in the army. When he returns home briefly to announce his upcoming wedding, Frankie is elated. Through a combination of wishful thinking and youthful naiveté, she becomes convinced that she will go with her brother and his bride on their honeymoon, then live with them wherever they go afterward. Believing that she has solved the problem of not belonging anywhere, she begins...
(The entire section is 676 words.)