According to Disney, you can “be who you wanna be/Anyone you wanna be.” Not only is this view of self-determination patently absurd, but it also erodes the communal dependencies that characterize healthy cultures. Berry’s fiction, however, invites us to listen in on Port William’s talk about its members, talk that defines each person through his or her relationships. The virtue of convocation that this community practices shapes individual identities in the context of their joint membership to their place and to each other. Readers may expect a free-spirited character like Burley Coulter to have little patience for the expectations and demands that his fellow community members place on him, but Burley learns to fulfill the requirements of others in his own distinctive way. As Burley answers these calls, he becomes the most vocal proponent for the Port William “membership”: “The way we are, we are members of each other. All of us. Everything. The difference ain’t in who is a member and who is not, but in who knows it and who don’t.” The call of another may be a requirement, even a burden, but it is also an invitation to participate in a communal, redemptive life.
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