Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama)
The Member of the Wedding is about the isolation of people and their search for love and acceptance to correct this condition. Related minor themes concerning death, race, time, and war also are treated.
The play focuses on Frankie, caught in the awkward transition between a child and an adult. She is too old for dolls and yet too young to understand the “nasty lies about married people” that the older girls tell. She is also motherless, her father is preoccupied, her older brother has been away in the army, and her best friend has moved. She also has little in common with Berenice or John Henry. Frankie’s outward toughness fails to mask her vulnerability. Her desire to belong suddenly crystallizes when she sees Jarvis and Janice’s special relationship.
Death is another cause of isolation, especially for Mr. Addams, a longtime widower, and Mr. and Mrs. West, who lose their only son during the play. Berenice’s loneliness stems from the death of her first husband, with whom she had a loving relationship.
Racial isolation becomes another subtheme, developed through Berenice, T.T., and Honey. Frankie’s comment to Berenice about death, that “it must be terrible to be nothing but black, black, black,” and Berenice’s answer, “Yes, baby,” coming immediately after Mr. Addams’ confrontation with Honey, have ironic application also to the plight of the Southern black at this time. In this play, blacks either...
(The entire section is 334 words.)
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Identity and Self
Twelve-year-old Frankie is entering the phase of her adolescence in which she undergoes dramatic changes and begins seriously considering who she is as a person and who she will become. McCullers describes Frankie’s unrest in part one, writing:
Very early in the morning she would sometimes go out into the yard and stand for a long time looking at the sunrise sky. And it was as though a question came into her heart, and the sky did not answer. Things she had never noticed much before began to hurt her: home lights watched from the evening sidewalks, an unknown voice in the alley. She would stare at the lights and listen to the voice, and something inside her stiffened and waited. But the lights would darken, the voice fall silent, and though she waited, that was all. She was afraid of these things that made her suddenly wonder who she was, and what she was going to be in the world, and why she was standing at that minute, seeing a light, or listening or staring up at the sky: alone.
Frankie is exceptionally tall for her age, which makes her feel gawky and clumsy. She is a tomboy who wears boyish clothes and has shortly cropped hair, and when she looks at herself in the mirror, she sees only ugliness. Her self-esteem is low, as indicated in the following excerpt from part one:
This was the summer when Frankie was sick and tired of being...
(The entire section is 802 words.)