(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The actual circumstances described in The Member of the Wedding take place on the last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of August, 1944, but the narrative shifts in time to include the past along with the present and a brief glimpse of the future. Even though the narrator appears to be omniscient, the perspective from which the story is told is always Frankie’s, F. Jasmine’s, or Frances’. The tone and language appropriately reveal the active and vivid mind of a young adolescent who has written and produced plays and intends to become a famous poet. She is very intelligent but knows less about the adult world than she thinks she does. During the course of the narrative, her entire emotional world is upset and transformed by her reaction to the wedding. The disappointments she suffers help her to reevaluate her perspective of the world, to grow in knowledge and understanding of life and death, and to become better prepared for losing John Henry, entering the seventh grade, moving to a new house, and leaving Berenice behind. Even though Frances is far from being an adult, she is at least no longer a child, and she has learned something of the importance of being connected through love and feeling a sense of solidarity.

As the story progresses, F. Jasmine undergoes several major losses that prepare for and demonstrate her loss of childhood innocence. One of these is the death of Uncle Charles, which prompts F. Jasmine to review the other seven dead people she has known. She has not felt close to any of them, but Berenice’s vivid accounting of the death of Ludie Freeman, her beloved and cherished husband, actually brings the idea of death into the kitchen, the realm of childish things. The fact that Ludie died on November 1, 1931, the very day that she was born, compels F. Jasmine to feel a closeness and connectedness with him. These experiences help to prepare her for the death of John Henry.

She needs even more preparation for the separation from Berenice’s lap and the womblike security of her kitchen; she cannot deal directly with the thought that Berenice would leave her, so she makes elaborate plans for her own departure. She rejects Berenice in words by deliberately saying things that will hurt her and even throws a kitchen knife at her in a...

(The entire section is 931 words.)