Carson Mccullers Essay, Research Paper
Having lived a difficult life made Carson McCullers a very strong minded person.Born into a highly respectable family with moderate means, she received anopportunity to play the piano at a very young age. McCullers was the oldest ofthree children that were born to highly regarded jewelers. At a tender age ofseventeen she was diagnosed by doctors as having pneumonia withcomplications , but later was found to have rheumatic fever. Her Grandfatherowned two thousand acres that had 75 slaves keeping it active. These acreswere ruined by a fire while her grandfather was still alive and well (Magill,Survey 1212). She married once, but held other relationships while she wentaway for school in New York City (Baechler 280). She had a divorce a littlewhile after that, leading her into a lonely and sad life that she shared with heraging mother. Her adventures brought out her feelings and she expressed themthrough her pieces of writing. In her novel The Member of the Wedding,McCullers used bizarre and tortured characters who have disparate purposesand significant meanings. McCullers makes Frankie Addams the most unfortunate character of thebook. Frankie is a twelve year old girl trapped within her own mind in a shortthree days in the book (Hile 153). Being the central character, she is heldresponsible for the development of the story as well as the existence of the othercharacters in the novel. Frankie symbolizes the nearly divine nature oftenassigned to the child at a young age while trying to grow up into a respectableadult. From the first page of the book, McCullers showed Frankie s emotions anddifficulties through adult eyes. Frankie does battle with many truths she faceswith life, but is too young to fully understand the realities that obscure thosetruths ( Magill, Masterpieces 308). Her first encounter with facing reality is when her brother, Jarvis,announces his engagement to Janis Evans. Frankie envisions of becoming amember of her brother s wedding as well as attending the honeymoon with them. She holds a belief within herself that would make her belong to the world if shegoes with them after the immense ceremony (Hile 161). Two days before thewedding, she finds herself telling everyone she sees on the street about thewedding. Frankie holds many dreams of adventures that they are going to shareas a group when they leave for the honeymoon. She is unable to look at thesituation in a realistic way and understand how they feel about her going. Shefights frantically after the wedding celebration when she finds out she can notattend the honeymoon alongside the newlyweds (Magill, Masterpieces 307). Beside her lack of understanding reality, she is worried about the way shelooks. Frankie criticizes everything about herself. She worries about being tootall for her age and her gawky frame. She often has wishes at night about herhair, wanting it longer or shinier (Magill, Masterpieces 307). Some of the girls intown call her a freak or a lanky girl with skinned elbows. The older girls also area part of many clubs, but never ask Frankie to join. She feels very rejected andblames her looks and character on the separation from her peers (Baechler284). It is hard for her at first as a little girl, but as she grows older she isolatesherself in her dark kitchen. She usually plays cards or talks for hours with hermaid Berenice and her cousin John. Her loneliness comes at a young age whenher mother dies. From that day on, she feels sad and lonely throughout the longhours of each day (Magill, Masterpieces 307). 6 Frankie s tortured and angry side is also shown from beginning to end inthe book. McCullers did not make Frankie out to be the typical young lady. Shegets in too much trouble when out of the house, so she mostly passes her dayswith John and Berenice. She feels very isolated and limited to seeing those twopeople. This makes her go into sudden rages against them. In one incident, shetries to throw a kitchen knife at the cook, but instead she finds it within herself tothrow it at the stairway door missing both Berenice and John. She tries runningaway on several different occasions as well. Many times throughout the threedays of the story, she does not realize what she wants to come out of everything
(Magill, Survey 1215-9). Frankie s behavior projects the universal feeling ofloneliness. Her search for an identity is found from the longing for the love feltby adolescents (Hile, 155). Frankie s viewpoint in the novel is of primary concern. McCullerscharacterized Frankie as an incomplete person. Frankie, knowing herincompleteness is terrified of everything that reminds her of such. Frankie isessentially unchanged by the trauma of disappointment over her brother swedding. At the end of the story, she appears to be over the worst of herchildhood. McCullers portrayed the feeling of anxiety felt by Frankie aboutbecoming a mature, honest and well-respected adult (Magill, Masterpieces 307). The second character that McCullers made significant to The Member ofthe Wedding is Berenice. She is the most interesting character for she servesmultiple functions. She is hired by the father of Frankie to care for her at a veryyoung age. She is a short, broad-shouldered African-American older woman. The novel depends on her for several levels of its development. McCullers gaveBerenice necessary information to which Frankie has not yet been exposed tobut will face in the near future. Berenice feels pity towards 6Frankie s unhappy life and becomes a surrogate mother to Frankie (Baechler284). McCullers presented Berenice s unstability by giving her past a symbolicmeaning. Berenice was married four times, the last marriage being the worst(Magill, Masterpieces 307). During the fourth marriage, she encountered a fightwith her husband which made her lose an eye. The symbolism that McCullersused comes from the ancient literary tradition of the blind or one-eyed personwho spoke the truth clearly because of that missing vision. She sees the truththrough her glass eye, not through her physically functioning one (Magill, Survey1220). McCullers used a lot of Latin related words in her writings as well. Thisis depicted in that glass and truth are related etymologically within the languageof Latin (Magill, Masterpieces 307). Berenice is always the one who tries to explain to Frankie and John thesimple wisdom life has taught her. She is always trying to keep everyone out oftrouble. Berenice is the one always giving sharp practical advice and criticismwhile having affectionate understanding. She offers kind and motherly comfortwhen one is in need of it. McCullers illustrated through Berenice that love, evenwhen directed toward vague objective, has the eventual effect of peace andgrace (Magill, Masterpieces 307). The last character that is very significant to the novel is John Henry West. He is Frankie s six year old cousin and confident. He had little understanding ofwhat Frankie or Berenice talk to him about throughout the story. He does,ironically, listen when the two of them talk about the dead people they hadknown in the past. The spiritual singing that is done in the dark kitchen alwaysgives him something to look forward to when he came over their house (Magill,Masterpieces 307). McCullers gave Frankie juvenile companionship when she 6brought out John s character (Baechler 282). John is progressed into a comparison to Frankie, for he too wanted togrow up quickly and face the circumstances of being responsible. Berenice sglass eye interests him since the first time he sees her. McCullers idea was toshow us how John was always interested in the truth and was never going to lie. He shares many experiences and opinions in their household until he dies ofmeningitis. The pain and suffering that is entwined in the book was shownthrough John s sudden death (Magill, Masterpieces 307). McCullers explored human conditions from several perspectives, but allwith the common focus of loneliness and dissatisfaction. She put a particularindividual to attempt to escape isolation and her deep emotions. She alsoshowed us how adults cannot comprehend the adolescent mind while theadolescent mind will never comprehend the adult mind because it is notequipped to do so. All her thoughts on life are interpreted through the feelingsand doings of her many distinct characters. ****
Baechler, Lea, Ed. Modern American Women Writers. New York: Charles Scribner s Sons, 1991.Hile, Kevins, ed. Authors and Artists for Young Adults. Detroit: Gale, 1994.Magill, Frank N., ed. Magill s Survey of American Literature. Vol 4. New York: Salem, 1991.Magill, Frank N., ed. Masterpieces of American Literature. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.