Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by

Lynn Nottage

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Crumbs from the Table of Joy: Act 1, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Ermina sorts through the mail one day, Godfrey impatiently asks if Father Divine has finally responded to him. But Ermina is more interested in a square of fabric that Ernestine mail-ordered for a dress she’s making. It’s a dress for her high school graduation, and Ermina notes that their mother had promised Ernestine a beautiful dress for the occasion. Godfrey, for his part, is shocked to hear his daughters talk about this dress—he didn’t even know Ernestine was going to graduate. He’s suddenly overcome by pride, talking about how Ernestine will be the first person in the family to graduate high school. He also asks why Ernestine didn’t mention this achievement, but she hints that she did. Embarrassed, Godfrey takes out a small notepad and writes something down.
That Godfrey didn’t already know his daughter would soon be graduating high school is a good illustration of how wrapped up he is in his own affairs—so wrapped up, it seems, that he overlooks some fairly important developments in Ernestine’s life. When she subtly suggests that she has already told him about her upcoming graduation, he seems somewhat ashamed of his oversight, but then he starts writing in his notepad. This ultimately highlights the way he tends to disappear into his own thoughts instead of engaging with the world around him.
Themes
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ermina continues sorting through the mail and comes across a letter from Father Divine. Godfrey is overjoyed, eagerly opening the envelope but then passing it to Ernestine, who is better at reading. Father Divine’s message says that he was moved by the honesty in Godfrey’s previous letters, which is why he decided to respond. He tells Godfrey to stay strong as a Black man living in poverty, adding that segregation and Jim Crow laws were invented to “punish those who are in touch with God.” Father Divine adds that he doesn’t ask much of his followers, other than that they remain celibate and pious. He insinuates that Godfrey can rise above adversity by resisting temptation and remaining pious.
Father Divine’s remark that segregation and Jim Crow laws were invented to “punish those who are in touch with God” frames the push for racial equality as something that is righteous and pious. This makes sense, considering that the Peace Mission was a religious movement that emphasized the importance of equality. In turn, Father Divine’s words help Godfrey view his own struggles as a Black man living in a racist society as part of something bigger than himself.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
In his letter, Father Divine decides to give Godfrey and his daughters new names. Henceforth, Godfrey will no longer be Godfrey Crump, but Godfrey Goodness. Ernestine will be Darling Angel, and Ermina will be Devout Mary. Before signing off, Father Divine urges Godfrey to join the Peace Mission Movement at its Holy Communion Banquet, reminding him that, although “life is a feast,” it’s still necessary to pay for food—and Father Divine knows Godfrey won’t let the Peace Mission Movement starve.
Father Divine’s implication at the end of his letter is that he wants Godfrey to provide an ample amount of food for him at the upcoming Holy Communion Banquet, despite the fact that seemingly all of Godfrey’s letters to Divine have been about how hard life has been for him as a poor Black man who recently arrived in Brooklyn. This is a good indication that Father Divine is perhaps less interested in helping Godfrey than Godfrey would like to think. Instead, Father Divine just wants to gain followers and support himself and the Peace Mission Movement, ultimately satisfying people like Godfrey with relatively bland, generic words of encouragement.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Godfrey is elated by Father Divine’s letter, but Ermina doesn’t like the sound of her new name. She wonders how she’ll ever get the attention of boys her age with a name like Devout Mary. According to Godfrey, though, this shouldn’t be a problem: Father Divine would not approve of Ermina fraternizing with boys anyway. Still buzzing with excitement, Godfrey talks about how he and his daughters are now part of Father Divine’s “flock” and will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven with their new names. As he says this, he pulls out his money and starts counting it, and though Ernestine imagines him giving them some cash to go to the movies, he just sits there counting and recounting the bills until it’s time for him to leave for work.
That Godfrey spends so much time counting and recounting his money serves as a reminder that the Crumb family doesn’t have very much money—this is probably all of it, or at least the vast majority. And yet, Godfrey is so excited that he and his daughters are now officially part of Father Divine’s flock that he will most likely spend what little they have on the Peace Mission Movement. Because Father Divine’s teachings gave Godfrey a sense of hope in the aftermath of his wife’s death, then, he’s willing to support the Peace Mission Movement even if it means putting a financial strain on the family.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
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