The Member of the Wedding

When she was only twenty-three Carson McCullers’s first novel The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, created a literary sensation. She is very special, once of American’s superlative writers who conjures up a vision of existence as terrible as it is real, who takes us on shattering voyages into the depths of the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition.

“Rarely has emotional turbulence been so delicately conveyed,” said The New York Times of Carson McCullers’s achingly real novel about Frankie Addams, a bored twelve-year-old madly jealous of her brother’s impending marriage. Frankie was afraid of the dark and envious of the older girls. But as F. Jasmine, in a pink dress, she looked sixteen. No longer a child, she accepted a date with a red-haired soldier and purchased a sophisticated gown for the wedding. F. Jasmine had plans. –Bantam 1985 Paperback edition.

“…What makes this story so unusual is the fact that most of it takes place through the medium of desultory conversations between three really weird people sitting in an even weirder kitchen. Nothing or almost nothing occurs here, and yet every page is filled with a sense of something having happened, happening, and about to happen. This in itself is a considerable technical feat; and, beyond that, there is magic in it.” – Saturday Review. March 30, 1946.

“Winner of the Donaldson Award and the New York Drama Critics’ Prize for the best american play of the 1950 season.” – Book Club Edition of the play.

“Out of the poignant loneliness of adolescence and the strange bond between Negro and white in the American South, Carson McCullers has fashioned one of the most beautiful plays ever to appear on the Broadway stage. In the role of Bernice Sadie Brown, the colored cook who mothers the motherless Frankie Addams, and who is so magnificently portrayed by that great actress and great human being Ethel Waters, Mrs. McCullers has created a figure on the classic scale. As Brooks Atkinson has written (in the New York Times): “Everything of basic importance to the truth of life seems to have been gathered up into the personal experience of this simple housekeeper who has loved and lost more than once in her lifetime and can now view the trouble of her juniors with wisdom.

Writing in The Saturday Review, John Mason Brown said of The Member of the Wedding: “Mrs. McCullers’s study of the loneliness of an over-imaginative young Georgian girl is no ordinary play. It is felt, observed, and phrased with exceptional sensitivity. It deals with the torturing dreams, the hungry egoism, and the heartbreak of childhood in a manner as rare as it is welcome. Quite aside from the magical performances its production includes, it has a magic of its own. The script shines with an unmistakable luster. Plainly it is the work of an artist, of an author who does not stoop to the expected stencils and who sees people with her own eyes rather than through borrowed spectacles. Common speech becomes uncommon in Mrs. McCullers’s usage of it. The girl Frankie, the Negro cook, and the young boy, are as vividly drawn as any characters to have come out of the contemporary theatre.” – Book Club Edition of the play.

Related sources:

The Member of the Wedding at the Erlanger Theater, Chicago, 10/7/51
Chicago Footlights Program Notes
Who’s Who in the Cast


Stephen Bourne has published a book about Ethel Waters, one of the actresses in the original stage production of The Member of the Wedding. Click the link below for more information and to purchase the book:

Stormy Weather
Bourne, Stephen. Ethel Waters: Stormy Weather. Scarecrow Press, 2007.

The Member of the Wedding (1997)

Alfre Woddard and Anna Paquin star in the USA Networks Original Special Event Presentation, “The Member of the Wedding,” an adaptation of Carson McCullers’ classic novel about the coming-of-age of a young girl struggling to understand adolescence and her emerging feelings of adulthood. Set in the South in 1944, the story focuses on Frankie Adams (Anna Paquin) and her relationship with the family cook, Bernice Sadie Brown (Alfre Woodard).

For more information, check the IMDB.