The Member of the Wedding

by Carson McCullers

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The Play

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The Member of the Wedding begins as the lights gradually reveal a kitchen in which Berenice Sadie Brown is preparing refreshments, and a backyard where Mr. Addams and his daughter, Frankie, are entertaining Jarvis Addams and his fiancee, Janice. Their wedding is to be two days later, on Sunday. Also present is John Henry West, Frankie’s cousin, who lives next door. Frankie rushes to serve the couple and then perches at their feet.

When Janice asks about music from a nearby girls’ clubhouse, Frankie admits that she is not yet a member but soon hopes to be. After the couple leaves, Berenice, John Henry, and Frankie begin their usual card game, but soon stop because John Henry has cut the pictures from the jacks and queens. With nothing to do, Frankie is restless; she has outgrown playing with the neighborhood children and does not want the doll Jarvis has brought her. When the club girls tell her that Mary Littlejohn is the new member, Frankie is crushed. In her frustration, she turns to thoughts of Janice and Jarvis. Suddenly, she realizes that both their names begin with J and a. Wanting her name to fit this pattern, she changes it to F. Jasmine Addams.

Concerned about her friendless condition, Frankie worries about becoming a freak because of her height. When John Henry irritates her, she sends him home. Trying to raise Frankie’s spirits, Berenice starts teasing her about having a crush on the wedding; in retaliation, Frankie angrily throws a carving knife at the bedroom door and threatens to leave home after the ceremony.

When Berenice leaves for the evening with Honey Brown and T.T. Williams, Frankie again feels excluded. She invites John Henry back to spend the night but then thinks of a solution to her loneliness: She will go with Jarvis and Janice after the wedding. She realizes that she has been an “I” person too long; she belongs with her brother and Janice “because they are the we of me.”

Act 2 opens on the afternoon of the next day; Frankie, missing all morning, informs Berenice and John Henry that she has been to town to buy her wedding clothes and to tell everyone of her plans to be a member of the wedding.

Berenice decides that Frankie’s wedding infatuation can be cured if she has a beau of her own, such as Barney MacKean, whom Frankie, however, calls “nasty.” When T.T. and Honey arrive collecting for a friend’s funeral expenses, Frankie models her wedding clothes for them: an obviously inappropriate orange satin evening dress with silver shoes and stockings. Mr. Addams comes to ask whether T.T. or Honey could help at his jewelry store the following week. T.T. agrees to try, but Honey abruptly refuses and is called a “biggety, worthless nigger” by Mr. Addams for not saying “sir” to him. John Henry asks, “Why is Honey a nigger?” and Berenice predicts an early death for Honey if he does not behave. After Honey and T.T. leave, John Henry’s questions about death cause Berenice to think of her first husband, Ludie Maxwell Freeman, the only one of four husbands she truly loved. After his death, she tried unsuccessfully to recapture their love by marrying men who resembled him. She warns Frankie that she, too, might continually try to repeat a feeling if she does not stop her foolishness about the wedding.

Oblivious to Berenice’s cautions, Frankie continues to enlarge her wedding fantasies. In her excitement, she begins running around the table proclaiming that she, Jarvis, and Janice will become famous world travelers and “be members of...

(This entire section contains 1019 words.)

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the whole world.”

When Berenice pulls Frankie to her lap to calm her, John Henry jealously pinches his cousin, saying that he is sick. Thinking that he only wants attention, Berenice ignores his complaints. Frankie’s admitted lack of understanding about so many things ends with all three singing “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.”

When act 3, scene 1 begins, it is Sunday, and Berenice and T.T. are preparing refreshments for the wedding, which has just occurred offstage. Tension mounts because of a threatening storm, Honey’s volatile nerves, and Frankie’s plans to join the unsuspecting newlyweds. When John Henry announces that the couple is leaving, Frankie grabs her suitcase and rushes out. Offstage, the audience hears her begging to go with them. Finally, John Henry reports that Frankie’s uncle and father have ejected her forcibly from the wedding car.

Back in the kitchen, Frankie refuses to be consoled and announces that she is still leaving—she can go to Hollywood or join the merchant marines. She grabs her suitcase with her father’s gun in it and runs into the storm, followed by Mr. Addams and T.T.

As the storm continues, the lights go out in the kitchen on John Henry and Berenice. The scene closes as they admit their mutual fears.

Scene 2 of act 3 opens at 4:00 a.m. with Berenice and Mr. Addams in the kitchen, discussing Frankie’s disappearance and Berenice’s worries about Honey. When Mr. Addams leaves to check on John Henry, who has become seriously ill with meningitis, Frankie enters, exhausted, telling Berenice that she has realized the childishness of her plans. Honey suddenly appears from behind the arbor and tells Berenice that he has stabbed a white man who refused to serve him; Berenice gives him money to escape to Atlanta.

Scene 3 of act 3 opens several months later, at sunset, with Berenice alone in the now empty kitchen. When Frankie enters, the audience learns that she and her father are moving with the Wests to a new house, but Berenice has chosen not to go with them. Other changes have occurred: John Henry has died, and Honey has hanged himself in jail. With Mary Littlejohn as her best friend, Frankie is now a “we” person. She leaves with Barney, whom she now regards as a “Greek god,” to find Mary. Berenice, alone on the stage, hums the chorus of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” as the curtain falls.

Dramatic Devices

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The structure of The Member of the Wedding differs from standard dramatic format in that the antagonist is not a character but an abstraction: loneliness. Moreover, most of the dramatic action (the wedding, Frankie’s attempt to accompany the newlyweds, and John Henry’s and Honey’s deaths) occurs offstage and is reported to the audience. The audience’s attention, therefore, is directed to the emotional effects of these events on the characters rather than to the events themselves.

The first two acts move slowly and consist mainly of digressive, disjointed conversation among Berenice, Frankie, and John Henry, revealing Frankie’s unsettled condition as well as the lack of real communion among the three. Frankie’s movements correspond to her moods: When troubled by the piano tuner, she paces; when fantasizing about joining her brother’s wedding, she runs. The tempo of act 3 is much faster: The three short scenes parallel the play’s rapid changes and quicken the rhythm through a staccato effect.

The play’s costuming also aids characterization. As a tomboy, Frankie wears shorts and a sombrero; as F. Jasmine, she wears an orange satin evening dress to match her fantasies. T.T. Williams’ black, church-deacon suit fits his placid demeanor, while Honey Brown’s loud-colored, snappy clothes publicize his volatile nature. Berenice’s blue glass eye perhaps represents a wish to identify with white society.

The same set, a kitchen and a backyard with an arbor, is used for the entire play. The hot summer kitchen emphasizes Frankie’s frustration with her isolated world and her longing to escape. It also dramatizes her outsider status, as she peers from the kitchen window at club girls who cross her backyard.

When act 3, scene 3 opens, it is three months later, and the autumn twilight correlates with the news of John Henry’s and Honey’s deaths. The sheet formerly hung in the arbor as a curtain for Frankie’s plays is gone, an indication of her changing interests. With the kitchen empty except for one chair, the stark set parallels Berenice’s loneliness.

The dim lighting in act 1 (directions indicate “a dreamlike effect, gradually revealing” the characters), and scenes 2 and 3 of act 3 contribute to the play’s moody quality. When the lights go out completely in act 3, scene 1, the darkness, coupled with sounds of wind and thunder, parallels the storms occurring in Frankie and Honey and suggests Berenice’s and John Henry’s fears.

Music plays a subtle but important part in establishing themes. In act 1, music from the girls’ clubhouse underlines Frankie’s outsider status, while unfinished music from a distant trumpet and a piano tuner next door augments tensions. The song that ends both act 2 and act 3, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” reinforces the theme of loneliness by the contrast between its renditions. In act 2, after Berenice, John Henry, and Frankie have been discussing the enigmas of time and mortality, John Henry starts the chorus, “I sing because I’m happy,” and the others join him. The effect is of affirming faith. Yet the song is unfinished, which seems to indicate the precarious nature of this trio. At the end of the play, Berenice has become a solitary singer, left to mourn the changes that have occurred. After she hums only two lines, the curtain falls; her unfinished song suggests the haunting incompleteness of loneliness for everyone.

Places Discussed

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Georgia town

Georgia town. Unnamed and typically southern community that is Frankie’s hometown. Frankie spends much of this hot August weekend walking to town, downtown to her father’s jewelry store just off the main street, for example, and later to Sugarville, the Black section of town where Berenice Sadie Brown and her mother live, and to the Blue Moon, a bar where Frankie has her adventures with the red-haired soldier.

Addams home

Addams home. Small house on 124 Grove Street, some blocks from the main section of town. Frankie, her cousin John Henry West, aged six, and the Addams’s cook Berenice have spent the summer sitting in the Addams’s kitchen, playing cards and talking. If Frankie feels stuck between childhood and adolescence, this house, with John Henry’s childlike drawings on the kitchen walls, and Frankie’s sleeping-porch bedroom, perfectly reflects her condition. At the end of the novel, Frankie’s father decides to move her to another house on the outskirts of town with relatives, which signals the changes that have occurred in Frankie.

Winter Hill

Winter Hill. Georgia site of the wedding of Frankie’s brother Jarvis and Janice Evans, and the goal of all Frankie’s dreams. Frankie plans to break out of her preadolescent jail by joining Jarvis and Janice on their honeymoon; after the wedding her father has to drag her out of their car. Winter Hill (like much of the novel’s imagery) thus symbolizes the freedom that maturity will bring, in contrast to Frankie’s hot, last summer of childhood.

Form and Content

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This female initiation story is told in three parts and focuses on the changes that take place inside the maturing twelve-year-old who has called herself Frankie until she decides to become a member of the wedding. In part 2, she is F. Jasmine and believes that she is destined for an exciting life with Jarvis and Janice. By part 3, she has left her childish self behind and is referring to herself as Frances.

All of the events of part 1 as well as much of the past take place in the kitchen of the Addams home. Berenice’s domain has become a precious and private sanctuary where Berenice, Frankie, and John Henry have spent most of the summer prior to the wedding. After Jarvis and Janice come for lunch on the last Friday of August, Frankie’s thoughts and conversation are totally centered on the wedding; Berenice accuses her of actually being in love with the wedding. That evening, after Frankie decides that she is a member of the wedding and that she will begin her new life by going with the couple on their honeymoon, she is a different, more confident person and changes her name to F. Jasmine.

Part 2 describes this new F. Jasmine, who spends the entire next day sharing her good news and looking at the town and at her former life as if she has already left them behind. For the first time in her life, she enters the Blue Moon, a place that has always fascinated her because it is forbidden to children but is enjoyed by soldiers on holiday and the grown and the free. In the bar, F. Jasmine sees for the first time the red-headed stranger with whom she exchanges an immediate look of recognition.

As the clock at the Baptist Church strikes twelve, she hears the sound of the organ and sets out to find the monkey-man. The now-drunk red-haired soldier is trying to force the old man to sell him the monkey. F. Jasmine attempts polite conversation with the soldier, who forgets the monkey, invites her to have a beer with him at the Blue Moon, and asks for a date with her at nine that evening.

Back home, she learns that because of the death of Uncle Charles, Berenice and John Henry are to attend the wedding with her and her father. F. Jasmine shares a beautiful last evening with Berenice and John Henry; the conversation is of love, death, separation, and loss. They end up with F. Jasmine in Berenice’s lap and John Henry’s arms around both of them, and all three share a good cry.

Her evening ends in a very frightening way when she meets the soldier at the Blue Moon; he takes her to his room, pushes her onto his bed, and sticks his tongue in her mouth. She promptly bites his tongue and runs away after hitting him on the head with the water pitcher. She is not certain but is afraid that she has killed him. She finally gets into her own bed, even more thankful that she will be going to Winter Hill the next morning for the wedding and will never return.

Part 3 begins with a short account of the bitter disappointment of the wedding day. The wedding was like a dream; she was left out of everything, never even had a chance to tell the bride and groom of her plans, and disgraced herself as the couple drove away by flinging herself into the dust and crying, “Take me! Take me!” Back at home, she is still determined to go into the world by herself. She types her father a goodbye note, signs it “Frances Addams,” and leaves homes. The train station is closed and the streets are lonesome; she cannot find even the monkey and the monkey-man; so she returns to the Blue Moon, where she expects to be arrested for the murder of the soldier. Instead, her father comes to take her home.

The last section in part 3 is a quick summary of the very real changes that have taken place over the next few weeks. The story ends in late November with a brief look at Frances and Berenice on their last evening in the old kitchen. The next day, Frances and her father will move to a new house in the suburbs; her new friend, Mary Littlejohn, is coming to spend the night. Frances is leaving Berenice behind, along with her Frankie and F. Jasmine selves.


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Frankie, in this coming-of-age story published in 1946, still serves as an effective role model for young postmodern women; McCullers’ handling of gender identity and racial differences deserves particular attention.

Like her contemporaries Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty, McCullers is fascinated with freaks and other “grotesque” aspects of Southern life. Frankie is concerned that she is or will become a freak; a favorite topic of conversation for her and John Henry is the half-man, half-woman in the freak show at the county fair. The androgynous name Frankie wears is born out of her attire, her boy’s haircut, all of her favorite activities, and her conception of the ideal world in which everyone could change from boy to girl and back to boy at will—just as her cat changes from Charlie to Charlina. Having grown four inches in the past year, she calculates that she will be nine feet tall by the time she is eighteen. Her fears that she will be a physical freak are enforced by her fascination with knives and her worries about the “criminal deed” that she has committed in stealing a knife at Sears. All of her fears are compounded in her fear that she has killed the soldier who has attempted to treat her body as that of an adult woman. These issues, along with her father’s indifference and rejection, are perfect for feminist psychoanalysts.

McCullers’ loving portrayal of Berenice provides a significant commentary on racial issues. Berenice has been both mother and father to Frankie and has nourished and cherished her from birth, yet she knows the vast social differences between herself and the Addams family. When Berenice, John Henry, and Frankie discuss the ways in which they would improve God’s creation, “The Holy God Berenice Sadie Brown” envisions a single race of light brown human beings with blue eyes and black hair in one loving family. Yet she is very much aware that this ideal does not exist; when Frankie asks Berenice to describe Jarvis, she says he is “a nice looking white boy,” and when Berenice comments on personal identity, she explains that everyone is “caught” by the circumstances of birth, but, she goes on, she is more caught than white people just in having been born colored. The colored have all been squeezed off in a corner where they cannot breathe any more. She says that every one must find a way “to widen free” and that a boy like Honey believes that he has to break something or break himself. The Army refused to accept Honey, and his inability to do something constructive is making him feel desperate. Berenice’s fears for him are realistic; by the end of the story, he is in prison with a sentence of eight years, and Berenice has been as powerless to save him as she was to save John Henry. In the final scene, Berenice is holding the little pinched fox fur that Ludie had given her many years ago; this is the symbol of her own hope and indomitable courage to continue to attempt to break free. Although she knows that she will always be squeezed off simply because she has been born black, Berenice will survive.

Historical Context

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World War II
Although the exact date of the story is not given, the events described indicate that it takes place near the end of World War II. In part one, Berenice mentions to Frankie that she read that the French were driving the Germans out of Paris. The liberation of Paris took place on August 25, 1944. McCullers mentions that Frankie reads the war news as she thinks about the summer. Describing the summer, she writes, “It was the summer when Patton was chasing the Germans across France. And they were fighting, too, in Russia and Saipan.” These references indicate the summer of 1944.

Jarvis, Frankie’s brother, is in the army and is stationed in Alaska. In 1942, while the Battle of Midway waged in the South Pacific, the Japanese took control of two Aleutian Islands (in southwest Alaska). This victory was less strategic than it was psychological, as the Americans were terrified at the prospect of having the enemy on the continent. In 1943, the American military began a fifteenmonth battle to reclaim the land, which they eventually won. There is also a reference to Jarvis and his bride going to Luxembourg, a formerly Nazioccupied country. After the Allies freed Luxembourg in September of 1944, American military personnel were sent to aid in peacekeeping.

Because there is an army base near Frankie’s hometown, she is accustomed to the sight of soldiers on leave. In part two, McCullers comments that when Frankie went into town during the summers, “she browsed the counters of the ten-cent store, or sat on the front row of the Palace show, or hung around her father’s store, or stood on street corners watching soldiers.” To Frankie, the presence of uniformed military men is a familiar sight. Her tendency to glamorize them, however, almost gets her into trouble when she goes to the redhaired soldier’s room.

Southern Gothic
McCullers is among the writers associated with the southern gothic style of writing. This style features settings in the American South and characters that are bizarre, grotesque, and outcast. Although the novels do not take place in drafty castles, mazes, and dark woods (settings tied with gothic literature), the same themes derived from these settings appear in southern gothic writing. These themes include isolation, confusion, and the search for meaning. McCullers’ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Reflections in a Golden Eye are especially known for representing this sub-genre because of their unusual casts of characters. Although The Member of the Wedding is less strongly associated with southern gothic writing, certain elements (such as Frankie’s interest in the people in the freak show) fit this writing style. Some critics note that McCullers’ work differs somewhat from the writing of other southern gothic authors in that she portrays her misfit characters with sensitivity and compassion for their situations. She once said that spiritual isolation was at the center of her novels, and this theme, consistent with the southern gothic tradition, is apparent in The Member of the Wedding.

Other writers associated with southern gothic writing include Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter and Truman Capote.

Literary Style

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Part of the appeal of McCullers’s writing style is her use of unexpected similes. As a pre-adolescent, Frankie looks for new ways to understand familiar things and also reaches for ways to understand and express experiences and feelings that are new to her. In this situation, similes are a natural form of expression.

Frankie associates her longing to go somewhere interesting with what she imagines her brother’s life is like. In part one, McCullers writes, “Frankie had not seen her brother for a long, long time, and his face had become masked and changing, like a face seen under water.” Later, Frankie thinks about the people at the freak show, and the Fat Lady is described as having fat that “was like loose-powdered dough which she kept slapping and working with her hands.” This is a highly visual simile that is drawn from Frankie’s domestic experience, as the reader soon encounters a scene in which Berenice and John Henry are working with biscuit dough. Similarly, in part two, the hot afternoon air is described as “thick and sticky as hot syrup.” The fragility of John Henry is expressed in a scene in which Frankie goes to visit him in the evening, and he is standing on his porch. McCullers writes, “John Henry was leaning against the banisters of his front porch, with a lighted window behind him, so that he looked like a little black paper doll on a piece of yellow paper.” In each case, McCullers is demonstrating Frankie’s ability to see familiar things in new ways although she is forced to reinterpret sights and feelings in terms of her limited experiences.

McCullers’s flair for allegory is evident in The Member of the Wedding. Readers looking for symbolism find the text rich with symbolic elements. The backdrop of the war symbolizes Frankie’s inner turmoil as she is forced to leave childhood behind and enter adulthood. In part one, McCullers explains:

Frankie stood looking up and down the four walls of the room. She thought of the world, and it was fast and loose and turning, faster and looser and bigger than ever it had been before. The pictures of the War sprang out and clashed together in her mind. She saw bright flowered islands and a land by the northern sea with the gray waves on the shore. Bombed eyes and the shuffle of soldiers’ feet. Tanks and a plane, wing broken, burning and downward-falling in a desert sky. The world was cracked by the loud battles and turning a thousand miles a minute.

Frankie reads about the war in the newspapers and applies her active imagination to the events of the war. She wants to somehow be a part of it and plans to donate lots of blood so that her blood will be in soldiers all over the world. Frankie is too young, however, to realize that her preoccupation with the war is driven by her own uncertainty in how to handle the changes taking place in her and the unspoken expectations society places on her. She is unsettled, and her private pain is mirrored in the war efforts.

Frankie’s closest relationships are with John Henry and Berenice, each of whom symbolizes an important aspect of the crossroads at which Frankie finds herself. John Henry is only six years old, yet he is her playmate. He represents the childhood simplicity she is uncomfortable leaving behind while Berenice represents the feminine wisdom and nurturing toward which Frankie feels she should be moving. Berenice is not an educated woman, rather her wisdom derives from life experience, something Frankie knows she lacks. Berenice’s life experiences have been mostly difficult and painful, making Frankie less than enthusiastic about entering womanhood. At the same time, Berenice’s unflagging optimism symbolizes hope for the future.

Compare and Contrast

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1942: In small towns, boys and girls amuse themselves by playing with friends and family members of about the same age. They often play outdoor games such as softball, tag, and hideand- seek. Other common pastimes include performing skits; dressing up in silly outfits or grownups’ clothing; exploring nearby trails, woods, or creeks; and setting up lemonade or snow-cone stands to make a little money.

Today: In small towns and big cities alike, children and adolescents entertain themselves with television, videos, computers, video games, music, and reading.

1942: Many middle-class white families employ African Americans as domestic help. Women are often housekeepers who also help with child rearing and thus become a part of the family dynamics. For many African-American women (like Berenice), this is their best opportunity for work. Men are employed less frequently but are sometimes paid to perform tasks such as household repairs, yard work, and wood chopping.

Today: Only the wealthiest households employ servants, and they may be of any race. While many people hire maid services, the relationship is nothing at all like the relationships with livein housekeepers of the past. African Americans have opportunities to work in all types of jobs, and the law protects their right to do so.

1942: Adolescents in small to medium-sized towns look forward to growing old enough to leave their hometowns and see what life is like in the larger world. Having grown up in communities where everyone knows them and they know everyone, they look forward to meeting new people and experiencing new things.

Today: Adolescents in small to medium-sized towns feel the same way adolescents in the past felt about their hometowns. The modern media make life outside small-town city limits seem glamorous and exciting, and the ability to communicate with people all over the world via the Internet intensifies the desire to see the world. In addition, bigger cities often offer more opportunities for advanced education, better careers, and higher pay. Among teenagers, it is considered very sophisticated to be bored and frustrated by their hometowns.

Media Adaptations

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At the encouragement of Tennessee Williams, McCullers adapted The Member of the Wedding for the stage. The play opened on Broadway in 1950 and was very successful. It ran for fourteen months and over five hundred performances. For this play, McCullers won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Donaldson Award for Best Drama of the Year, and the Gold Medal of the Theatre Club.

A film adaptation was made in 1952. Produced by Columbia Pictures, it earned a 1953 Academy Award nomination for best actress for Julie Harris (who played Frankie). Brandon de Wilde (who played John Henry) won a 1953 Special Golden Globe for best juvenile actor.

Two television movies have been based on the novel. A 1982 version was performed on “NBC Live Theater,” and, in 1997, Hallmark Home Entertainment produced a television movie starring Anna Paquin as Frankie and Alfre Woodard as Berenice.

In 1987, DH Audio released an audio adaptation with Tammy Grimes as the reader.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Brantley, Jennifer, “McCullers, (Lula) Carson,” in Feminist Writers, St. James Press, 1996, pp. 319–20.

Dangerfield, George, Review, in Saturday Review of Literature, March 30, 1946.

Everson, Judith L., “Carson McCullers,” in Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 173: American Novelists Since World War II, Gale Research, 1996, pp. 148–69.

Godden, Rumer, Review, in New York Herald Tribune Books, September 17, 1961.

Graver, Lawrence, “Carson McCullers,” in American Writers, Volume 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974.

Kapp, Isa, Review, in New York Times, March 24, 1946.

Kiernan, Robert F., “Carson McCullers,” in Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: The New Consciousness, 1941–1968, Gale Research, 1987, pp. 347–57.

McElroy, Lorie, “Carson McCullers,” in Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 21, The Gale Group, 1999, pp. 153–62.

Millichap, Joseph R., “McCullers, (Lula) Carson (Smith),” in St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, St. James Press, 1999, pp. 565–67.

Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson, eds., “Carson McCullers: The Member of the Wedding,” in Literature and Its Times, Vol. 4, Gale Research, 1997.

Rubin, Louis D., Jr., “Carson McCullers: The Aesthetic of Pain,” in Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 53, No. 2, Spring 1977, pp. 265–83.

Torsney, Cheryl B., “Carson McCullers,” in Modern American Women Writers, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1991.

Westling, Louise, “Carson McCullers’s Tomboys,” in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. 14, No. 4, Fall 1980, pp. 339–50.

Wilson, Edmund, Review, in New Yorker, March 30, 1946.

Further Reading
Andrews, William L., ed., The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology, W. W. Norton & Co., 1997. Andrews collects writing of the American South from the seventeenth century to the present. This anthology contains poetry, sermons, short fiction, songs, excerpts from novels, criticism, and nonfiction.

Carr, Virginia Spence, The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers, Carroll & Graf, 1985. Originally published in 1975, this biography presents the tragic events and circumstances of McCullers’s life. Carr demonstrates how these events influenced McCullers’s fiction.

McCullers, Carson, Collected Stories: Including “The Member of the Wedding” and “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe,” Houghton Mifflin, 1998. This book contains McCullers’s short works including the short novel The Member of the Wedding. At more than four hundred pages, this book allows the student of McCullers’s writing to compare and contrast the author’s works.

O’Connor, Flannery, The Complete Stories, Noonday Press, 1996. Flannery O’Connor is an important female writer in the southern tradition. Although she wrote novels, she is best known for her short stories, which are collected fully in this book.

Welty, Eudora, Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, Harcourt Brace, 1982. Eudora Welty remains one of the dominant literary figures of the American South. She is known primarily for her short fiction, and this collection provides a thorough introduction to Welty’s writing.


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Carr, Virginia Spencer. The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers, 1975.

Carr, Virginia Spencer, and Joseph R. Millichap. “Carson McCullers,” in American Women Writers: Bibliographic Essays, 1983.

Clurman, Harold. Lies Like Truth, 1958.

Clurman, Harold. “Some Preliminary Notes for The Member of the Wedding,” in Directors on Directing: A Source Book of the Modern Theater, 1963.

Dedmon, F.B. “Doing Her Own Thing: Carson McCullers’ Dramatization of The Member of the Wedding,” in South Atlantic Bulletin. XL (May, 1975), pp. 47-52.

Dusenbury, Winifred L. “An Unhappy Family,” in The Theme of Loneliness in Modern American Drama, 1960.

Rubin, Louis D., Jr. “Carson McCullers: The Aesthetic of Pain,” in Virginia Quarterly Review. LIII (Spring, 1977), pp. 265-283.

Weales, Gerald C. “The Vagaries of Adaptation,” in American Drama Since World War II, 1962.

Westling, Louise. “Tomboys and Revolting Femininity,” in Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens, 1985.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide