The Member of the Wedding

by Carson McCullers

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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 712

Frankie Addams

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Frankie Addams, a confident yet naïve tomboy. The twelve-year-old is conscious of her height (five feet, six inches) and has had her hair shaved off, though it has grown to resemble a boy’s. She is uneasy about her developing sensuality, her family relationships, and social behavior, especially among adults, servants, and other adolescents. Recently, she has been evicted from a movie house for booing a romantic film and has been rejected as a member of a local girls’ club. The motherless blonde girl decides to become a member of her brother’s wedding party in an attempt to end her loneliness and to become someone of consequence. She is dreamy and restless, and she lives in fantasy.

Berenice Sadie Brown

Berenice Sadie Brown, a stout, motherly black cook. First married at the age of thirteen, she has had four husbands in her forty-five years and is a philosophical observer of the community about her, both black and white. She has a flat face and one blue glass eye that sometimes bothers her (at which times she removes it and uses a black eye-patch); nevertheless, she does not seem to be a grotesque, for her motherly role and characteristics are dominant. She alone has authority with Frankie and tells her that she must grow up; she is regarded by the black community as its matriarch.

Royal Addams

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Royal Addams, Frankie’s widowed father. A small-town jeweler, he is a deliberate and absentminded man of about forty-five, set in his ways and old-fashioned in look and manner. He is conservative in outlook, unmindful of his responsibility for Frankie’s social and personal development; he has never spanked her. He has allowed Berenice to be his surrogate as a parent. He spends long hours at his store, and when he is home, he does not seem to hear much of what Frankie says to him.

Jarvis Addams

Jarvis Addams, Frankie’s brother, a good-looking twenty-one-year-old soldier. He is somewhat embarrassed because he has brought his fiancée, Janice, to be married at his home and Frankie does not understand the proprieties of a wedding.

Janice Williams

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Latest answer posted November 5, 2014, 7:25 pm (UTC)

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Janice Williams, Jarvis’ fiancée, a pretty, fresh-looking girl of between eighteen and nineteen. She has a pleasing personality and is sensitive to Frankie’s sense of alienation; she assures Frankie that she and Jarvis love her and want her to visit them after their wedding trip. She is eager to be accepted by her new family.

T. T. Williams

T. T. Williams, a friend of Berenice. A large and pompous-looking black man of about fifty, he dresses like a church deacon, wearing a black suit and a red emblem in his lapel. He is timid and overly polite, having experienced the worst aspects of race relations, yet he is a guardian of Berenice’s foster brother, Honey Camden Brown, and collects donations for the funeral of Sis Laura, the vegetable vendor who dies.

Honey Camden Brown

Honey Camden Brown, Berenice’s foster brother. A slender, limber black man of about twenty, he is a foil to T. T. Williams: He is light brown in skin color; wears bright, fashionable clothes; and is either brusque or speaks in a manner that combines hostility and teasing. His having been “left out” of society has made him mean, Berenice thinks. Only reluctantly does he “yes, sir” Royal Addams; he is tired of being called a nigger. When he is refused service, he draws a razor, then is hunted down. Ironically, he declares that he is happy now because he is free of a sense of inferiority, but he is caught and hangs himself in jail.

John Henry “Candy” West

John Henry “Candy” West, Frankie’s seven-year-old cousin. He is a delicate, active boy who wears gold-rimmed spectacles that give him the look of a judge. He is sunburned, fair-haired, and usually barefoot. Although he is much younger than Frankie, he is in many ways more mature; he is certainly more realistic and more perspicacious about matters of race, class, and status. His death from meningitis the same week that Honey commits suicide affects Frankie: She senses his presence, “solemn-looking and ghost gray,” but also senses her loss, which she tries to compensate for by befriending Barney MacKean.

Characters

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1396

Frances Addams
Frances, who is most often referred to as Frankie, is the main character and a twelve-yearold tomboy who feels that she does not belong anywhere. She is tall for her age and feels awkward and ugly. She keeps her hair short, wears boyish clothes, and enjoys knife-throwing.

Out of school for the summer, she spends most of her time at home with Berenice and John Henry. She is restless and bored with her hometown, and she dreams of a more exciting life. Wanting desperately to be a part of something, she wishes she could go fight in the war. When Frankie learns that her brother, who is in the army, is getting married, she sees the solution to her problems. She imagines that she will accompany the couple on their honeymoon and then live with them wherever they go afterward. Her limited experience of the world prevents her from understanding how inappropriate and impractical her plan is.

Frankie’s relationships are atypical of those of a girl her age. Her relationship with Berenice is loving, but the two often argue. Even though Berenice is a mother figure, Frankie knows that she is hired help, which ultimately gives Frankie the upper hand. Her relationship with John Henry is superficial because of the difference in their ages. They are playmates, and she calls on him when she does not want to be alone. Her lack of genuine feeling for him is evident when he dies. She is surprised but not devastated. Frankie and her father have a friendly relationship, but they do not share a deep parent-child bond. It is obvious that her father does not discuss important issues such as sex, death, and love with her. Not until the end of the story, when Frankie begins a friendship with Mary, does Frankie enjoy a “normal” friendship.

Jarvis Addams
Jarvis is Frankie’s older brother. He is described as blond and handsome. Jarvis is in the army and is stationed in Alaska but comes home briefly to announce his upcoming wedding. Jarvis is not a fully developed character; he is simply the vehicle in Frankie’s fantasy about escaping her hometown.

Royal Quincy Addams
Royal Quincy Addams is Frankie’s father. He owns a successful jewelry store in town and earns a middle-class living for himself and Frankie. He is seldom home, and, although a congenial man, he does not share a deep bond with Frankie. When Frankie attempts to go with the bride and groom by getting in the wedding car, it is Mr. Addams who pulls her out of the car.

Big Mama
Big Mama is Berenice’s elderly mother. Bedridden since she hurt her back many years ago, she is said to have developed “second sight.” People often come to her to have their fortunes told, and Frankie decides to visit her. Big Mama (who is actually a slight woman) tells Frankie that she will marry a light-haired, blue-eyed boy and that there is a trip in her near future. Frankie is upset to hear Big Mama say that this trip (which Frankie assumes means the trip to the wedding the next day) will end with Frankie back in her hometown.

Berenice Sadie Brown
Berenice has been the Addams’ African-American cook for most of Frankie’s life. Her skin is very dark, and she is short and broad. She wears her hair in greased plaits and has a glass eye that is bright blue. Because Frankie’s mother is dead, Berenice develops a somewhat motherly relationship with the girl. She offers advice, tells stories, and puts up with Frankie’s moodiness although her position as a servant prevents her from being much of a disciplinarian.

Berenice is open and reacts to questions and situations with homespun wisdom. She has been married four times (first when she was only thirteen), but she never loses her belief in love. Her first husband, Ludie Freedman, was the love of her life. When he died, she was devastated, and each of her subsequent marriages was an attempt to reclaim the happiness she once enjoyed with Ludie. Instead, she ended up in destructive relationships with abusive and alcoholic men, the last of whom gouged out her eye. At the time of the story, she is not married, although T. T. Williams is interested in her.

In a conversation with Frankie and John Henry, Berenice reveals how difficult it is to be an African-American woman of the time. She explains to the children that her options are limited and that she is constantly judged by her appearance. She dreams of a world in which everyone is the same color, and there is no war. This sense of optimism may be the reason why, in the end, she agrees to marry T. T. Williams.

Honey Camden Brown
Honey is Berenice’s foster brother, who lives with Big Mama. When the army would not accept him, he took a job in a gravel pit until he suffered an internal injury; now he does not work. He is a stylish dresser who is intelligent and well spoken when he chooses to be. Because of his light skin, Frankie tells him he should go to Cuba and live there (apparently because he would face less prejudice there since he looks like most Cubans). Perhaps because he is unable to find a suitable place in the community, he is a rebel who is disrespectful. He eventually goes to jail when he threatens his marijuana dealer.

Uncle Charles
Uncle Charles is Frankie’s uncle, who dies just before the wedding. Frankie remembers visiting him after he fell ill, and the sight of the sickly man frightened her. When he dies, Frankie is relieved that his death will not interfere with the wedding plans.

Frankie
See Frances Addams.

Janice
Janice is Jarvis’s bride. She is a petite brunette, whom Frankie thinks is beautiful. On the day of the wedding, Janice tells Frankie how delighted she is to have a younger sister.

Mary Littlejohn
Introduced at the end of the book, Mary is Frankie’s new best friend. They meet at a raffle and become instant friends. Mary has brown eyes and long blonde braids, and she loves art and poetry.

The Red-Haired Soldier
Frankie meets the red-haired soldier when she is dressed up in her pink dress and telling everyone in town about her plans to leave with her brother and his bride. The soldier is stationed nearby and is on a three-day pass. He does not seem to realize how young Frankie is; he may be drunk when Frankie first meets him, and it is dark the second time. He buys Frankie a beer and asks for a date. When Frankie meets him for the date, he asks her up to his room and makes advances. Confused and frightened, Frankie hits him over the head with a glass pitcher and escapes.

John Henry West
John Henry is Frankie’s six-year-old cousin. He lives nearby and spends lots of time with Frankie and Berenice. He wears gold-rimmed glasses and a small lead donkey around his neck. John Henry is small yet unusually mature and sensitive for his age and is somewhat effeminate. He enjoys cooking with Berenice, and he likes to dress up in Frankie’s costume dresses and heels. While most boys his age are playing in the dirt and roughhousing, John Henry is content to play cards or draw pictures.

In the last pages of the book (during the year that has passed unnarrated near the end of the book), McCullers explains that John Henry had a terrible headache one day. Neither Berenice nor Frankie thought much of it, but within ten days John Henry is dead of meningitis. His last days are described as having been full of suffering.

The character of John Henry, along with the character of Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird, has been the subject of some interesting speculation. Some critics and scholars suspect that both characters are based on the author Truman Capote as a child.

T. T. Williams
T. T. is Berenice’s current suitor, a large man who is older than she is. He runs a successful restaurant and is a good man, but Berenice says he does not make her “shiver.” He is polite and friendly, and in the end Berenice agrees to marry him.

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