The Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennett

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

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1350

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...

(This entire section contains 1350 words.)

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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 drawn to her and can’t escape the implications of having a cousin whose world is so different from her own. 

Chapter 13

Jude witnesses a transformation in Kennedy when she sees her perform her role in the final performance of The Midnight Marauders. Then, at intermission, Jude sees Stella at the theater’s concession stand. She begins speaking to her, telling her that her mother is from Mallard, Louisiana, and watching to see the reaction from Stella. Though Stella merely lifts an eyebrow to this, Jude then tells her that her mother is Desiree Vignes. Stella refuses to acknowledge any kinship with her, telling her that “you look nothing like” Desiree. 

At the cast party, Kennedy, who still knows nothing of her mother’s origins or of the encounter between Jude and Stella, urges Jude to stay and have a drink. Partly in reaction to a perhaps inadvertently insulting remark by Kennedy, Jude reveals to her that their mothers are twins. “You’re crazy,” Kennedy says. Jude responds, “No, your mother’s crazy. She’s been lying to you your whole life.”

The following morning, Stella is still in denial about Jude’s revelation. The main thing that makes her doubt it is the darkness of Jude’s skin. She imagines that Jude is an imposter, repeating stories she’s been told about the Vignes family. Blake senses she is upset, but she attributes it to something that happened “when I was young.” When Stella next sees Kennedy, her daughter casually asks her if she has ever been to a place called Mallard. Stella replies that she has never even heard of it. 

Later, Stella tells Blake about the “dark girl,” claiming to have been mystified by what Jude told her. Blake agrees that the girl was probably making up a story, perhaps in order to get money out of Stella. Later, Kennedy confronts Stella again, and Stella repeats her denials, saying that she never had a sister. Blake overhears the conversation and advises Kennedy to drop the whole matter and forget about “that girl.”

When Blake and Stella are helping Kennedy move into a new apartment in Venice, Stella compares the upscale flat with the bare-bones place where she and “her roommate” lived in New Orleans. Kennedy observes sharply that it’s strange that her mother has never told her about having had a roommate. She adds that it’s always been impossible for her mother to open up and tell her about herself. Stella replies that she’s simply not like that—not open, in contrast to Kennedy.


This section focuses on the growing connection between the two cousins, Jude and Kennedy, and the obvious contrast between them. It is also the point when Stella realizes that her lie about her background is being exposed and that her sister's daughter has found her, seemingly by chance.

The difference between Jude and Kennedy could not be greater. Jude is a responsible young woman, working hard at menial jobs, with the intention of both helping Reese and furthering her education, as she plans to go to medical school. Kennedy, though she too is trying to make something of herself as an actress, is spoiled and self-centered. 

When Kennedy’s friendship is established with Jude, she treats her demeaningly, not necessarily with any ill will but evidently out of a reflexive “white privilege.” Jude almost certainly resents this treatment, but she doesn’t give any outward indication of it at first. But after confronting Stella at the cast party, Jude finally pushes back against Kennedy’s high-handedness. After Kennedy makes an offhandedly offensive remark to Jude, Jude replies by disclosing what she knows of their interconnected lineage. This revelation sparks Kennedy’s curiosity, and she begins to press her mother for more information, doubting the stories her mother has always shared about her life.


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