Some novelists knock it out of the park on their first try and spend an entire career trying to live up to the great promise. Other writers must take time to mature and grow before it all comes together toward the end of their life. Very few fourth novels are ever almost universally hailed as a scribe’s unqualified masterpiece. The Member of the Wedding one of those and the success of the book was so expansive that author Carson McCullers was moved to adapt it into an equally success stage play which has itself adapted into film various occasions.
The process of composition almost mandated that it to represent a significant progress in the career and talent of McCulllers. The novel took several years to complete including an interregnum in which she completed the novella The Ballad of the Sad Café. The struggle toward completion was helped along to a significant degree by a awarding of Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. A different kind of support of the creative method came from the atmosphere of doing the actual writing at the Yadoo writers’ colony for a few summers.
Despite the lifelong desire to put as much space between her and the South in which she was raised and came to be creatively stifled, The Member of the Wedding is yet another of the literary works in which McCullers sets her drama. The story’s protagonist is 12 year old tomboy who views her role as a member of the wedding in terms that extend far beyond the ceremony and as the preferred path to maturity. Primarily as a result of the age of the novel’s heroine, The Member of the Wedding is often woefully miscategorized into the Young Adult genre and even sometimes manages to slip into high school or even middle school curricula despite clearly being intended for an adult audience capable of enjoying the story from the perspective of maturity looking back on those days of childish misinterpretation of the adult world.