The Vanishing Half Part IV: The Stage Door (1982) Summary and Analysis
by Brit Bennett

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Part IV: The Stage Door (1982) Summary and Analysis

Chapter 10

After college graduation Jude is working as a waitress at a Korean restaurant in L.A. and applying to medical schools. Reese encourages her. He is now employed at a Kodak store as he continues to work at his own photography.

Jude recalls the incident at the party in Beverly Hills when she was startled by the appearance of a woman in a fur coat, so startled in fact that the bottle of wine she was holding slipped from her hand and shattered, spilling wine on the rug. For this, Jude was fired by her boss, Carla. The woman she saw was Stella, whom she recognized as her mother’s twin despite the unlikely setting. From this point on, Jude dreams constantly about Stella, but when Jude asks her mother about her, Desiree tells Jude that there is no use in wondering about what has become of Stella. 

Barry lands a spot in the chorus line of a musical called The Midnight Marauders, playing in a small theater in downtown L.A. He sends tickets to Jude for the opening night, and when Jude attends the performance, she recognizes the USC girl she had met at the Beverly Hills party as one of the cast members. The girl is Kennedy, whom she then meets outside at intermission. Kennedy has no idea who Jude is, but the two become friendly, though Barry later describes Kennedy as a “rich bitch” in confidence to Jude. 

Kennedy is indeed spoiled and self-centered, but Jude becomes friendly with her. When Kennedy takes her backstage, she reflexively begins asking Jude to help her with various tasks as she is getting dressed for her role. Jude is even more confirmed in her recognition of Kennedy’s identity when the latter acknowledges that her mother, like Jude’s mother, is from Louisiana. The question is finally answered when Kennedy reveals that her mother’s name is Stella Vignes.

Chapter 11

Stella recalls the Beverly Hills party where she had seen a black young woman spilling a bottle of wine. After the Walkers move out of their neighborhood, Stella finds herself falling into a depression. The solution is for her to continue her education. She gets her GED and begins taking classes at Santa Monica College and Loyola Marymount, majoring in statistics and considering going on to graduate school. Blake seems to tolerate her ambitions, not approving of them outright but not doing anything to prevent Stella from making a new life for herself. 

When Stella has lunch with her daughter one day, it is clear that there is tension between the two and that Stella considers Kennedy a wayward child. Kennedy always seems to be trying to remake herself, dyeing her hair pink and generally getting into the “punk” scene. Stella disapproves of Kennedy’s theatrical interests and is disappointed by her daughter’s poor academic performance. Stella discusses these issues with her own academic adviser, Peg Davis, a professor of mathematics and number theory. In her conversations with Peg, Stella is increasingly made to consider gender issues, which intersect uneasily with her own personal issue of passing as different race.

Chapter 12

Jude has become an usher at the theater where Kennedy is performing. The dynamic between the two of them is uncomfortably hierarchical, but Jude seems to tolerate it. Kennedy treats her like a servant, dropping used candy wrappers into her hands and telling her to do tasks for her. Reese objects to Jude working at the theater, but she admits to him that it is the only way she can get close to Stella’s daughter. While Kennedy is opening up more and more to Jude, she is merely revealing the false version of family history Stella has told her, saying that Stella’s parents were “white trash” like the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath. 

Barry asks Jude how she manages to put up with Kennedy, saying that nobody in the cast can stand her. Jude remarks that when she and Kennedy talk to each other, they find each others’ words “inscrutable.” Reese tells Jude that Kennedy really wants no part of her,  but Jude is...

(The entire section is 1,350 words.)