Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING CHAPTER SUMMARIES
Frankie remembers Berenice’s stories of her four marriages. The first had been Ludie Freeman, a brickmason and Berenice’s favorite. He died after nine years of marriage. The other three of Berenice’s husbands were "all bad, each one worse than the one before." The stories of them make Frankie sad. The first of these was a liquor-drinker. The next one went crazy and Berenice finally left him. The last one gouged out Berenice’s eye and stole her furniture.
Frankie paces the kitchen floor even though she has a splinter in her foot. Finally she gets a butcher knife out of the drawer and sits down to extricate it. Frankie’s foot is scarred from going barefoot so many summers. Her feet are so tough she can cut off the calluses without hurting herself. Frankie looks up and insists that Berenice tell her one more time how it was when Jarvis came with Janice. Berenice says the two came late in the morning when Frankie and John Henry were playing in the back yard. Frankie had run upstairs and came down later wearing an organdy dress and lipstick an inch thick from one ear to the next. The family had sat around the living room and then Jarvis and Janice took the train back to Winter Hill that afternoon.
Frankie is disappointed that Jarvis hadn’t spent the night, but understands why he and Janice want to be together so much because he will soon be leaving for the war. Frankie asks Berenice to describe what they looked like. Berenice does so and then calls Frankie foolish for making her describe people that she had already seen. Frankie closes her eyes to imagine them and feels as if they are already going away from her. She feels like "the kitchen Frankie was an old hull left there at the table." She works on the splinter and tells Berenice that she thinks of Janice and Jarvis more as a picture than anything else. She thinks they are two of the prettiest people she has ever seen. Berenice worries that Frankie is hurting herself with the knife, but Frankie insists that she feels nothing.
It is the dog days of autumn when a strange phenomenon occurs: if something changes, it can’t change back until the dog days are over. Frankie’s cat, Charles, had disappeared. Despite the fact that she called and called for it, she knew it wouldn’t come back until the end of the dog days. "Things that are done are not undone and a mistake once made is not corrected." Every day Frankie says exactly the same things to Berenice and Berenice always makes the same replies. Their words had become "an ugly little tune they sang by heart." Frankie worries over her cat. She calls it a Persian even though it has short hair. Berenice tells Frankie the cat has gone to look for a friend and that Frankie won’t see the cat again.
Frankie changes things on this particular afternoon. She gets up and tells Berenice she knows what she will do. She will notify the police about Charles, the cat. She calls the police and tells them she is missing a Persian cat with short hair who goes by Charles and also, sometimes, by Charlina. When she returns to the kitchen, Berenice is giggling about her silliness in thinking the police will take her seriously. Berenice teases her about the possibility that the police now know her name and house number and will come and get her. Frankie takes it seriously and says she doesn’t care anyway. She decides she would be better off in jail anyway.
She thinks of Janice and Jarvis’s progress on the train to Winter Hill. Frankie laughs suddenly about Jarvis’s joke about the local election. He said he wouldn’t vote for the scoundrel C. P. MacDonald even if he were running for dog catcher. She remembers that Janice had assured her that she had gotten in the major portion of her growth by the time she was thirteen, so Frankie needn’t worry about her height. Frankie goes on about what Janice said until Berenice interrupts her and tells her she is lying. She scolds Frankie for her habit of exaggerating conversations. She admits "a little" that Berenice is right, then she wants to know if she makes a good impression on people. Berenice tells her she did nothing when Janice and Jarvis came over but watch them silently. Frankie finally extricates the splinter and feels satisfied that anyone but her would have felt pain in the operation.
Berenice wishes Honey and T T. would hurry and come because Frankie is making her so nervous. Frankie bunches up her shoulders and then bangs her head down on the table. She says the couple was so pretty and then they went away and left her. Berenice sings a song "Frankie got a crush . . . on the Wedd-ing." Frankie picks up the knife and threatens Berenice with it. Berenice tells her to lay down the knife. When Frankie won’t, Berenice calls her a devil. Frankie threatens to throw it. Berenice goads her to do it and Frankie throws it at the stairway door where it lodges. Berenice doesn’t say anything, then she reminds Frankie what her father has said about knife-throwing in the house. Frankie threatens once again to run away. Berenice wants to know when she’ll do it and where she’ll go. Frankie says she’s going to Winter Hill to the wedding and then never coming back. Berenice pushes Frankie’s bangs back and asks her kindly if she is serious. Berenice tells her she wonders how Frankie plans to do it when she doesn’t know where she’ll go. Frankie looks around at the kitchen again feeling "the world" is "fast and loose and turning, faster and looser and bigger than ever it had been before." She thinks of the pictures of the war. She tells Berenice it feels like she’s been skinned and wishes she had some chocolate ice cream.
Honey and T. T. knock on the door. Honey is Berenice’s foster brother. T. T. Williams is a big, gray-haired man who is older than Berenice. He is Berenice’s beau. Honey is a "sick-loose" man who hurt himself while working in the gravel pit and has since been unable to do heavy work. Before they leave, Berenice serves them a round of gin out of a hair-straightening bottle. Frankie "has the extra feeling like they were waiting for her to leave." She stands in the door watching them, not wanting to go away. Frankie finally says good-bye to them. Berenice calls after her to forget all the foolishness they were discussing. She tells Frankie to go to the Wests if her father doesn’t come home soon. Frankie stands on the outside of the door listening to them. Honey asks Berenice what they had been talking about. Berenice says it was nothing but foolishness.
Frankie is alone in the house. At one time after her grandmother died, they had rented the downstairs room out to a Mr. and Mrs. Marlowe. One day Frankie had gone into their room and found them together on the bed. She had run out telling Berenice that Mrs. Marlowe was having a fit. Berenice ran in, saw them, and then came out quickly, telling Frankie the Marlowes were common people. She never told Frankie what kind of fit Mrs. Marlowe was having. When Frankie’s father heard about it, he told the Marlowes to leave. Frankie has since been curious about what the adults were not telling her.
Frankie puts on one of her father’s hats and stares at herself in the mirror. She feels like the conversation about the wedding had been wrong and that she had asked all the wrong questions. Berenice had not taken her seriously. She stands in front of the mirror until the dark shadows seem like ghosts. She goes out to the street and looks at the sky. She used to go out always at this time of evening because the kitchen would get too hot. She would practice knife-throwing or write shows. This summer she had written "very cold shows," about snow-bound places. She would always go back into the house after she finished with her shows. Tonight, though, she didn’t want to write shows or throw knives. She begins to feel afraid like she had been in the beginning of spring. She feels the need to think of something ugly, so she looks at her house. It’s the ugliest house in town, "empty and dark." She goes to John Henry’s house. He’s on the front porch with the lighted window behind him. She wonders when her father will come home and says she doesn’t want to go home and be alone. She remembers Jarvis’s smart political remark about the politician C. P. MacDonald. John Henry doesn’t respond at all.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version