Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by

Lynn Nottage

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Crumbs from the Table of Joy: Act 1, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One morning, the family prepares to visit the Peace Mission to make sure everything is ready for Father Divine’s upcoming visit. Ermina is in the living room when Lily bursts into the apartment and stumbles into a mannequin, upon which Ernestine has started sewing her graduation dress. Lily is drunk and has been out all night, but she manages to catch the mannequin before it falls to the ground. She then drunkenly tells Ermina and Ernestine—who has entered—about her night, detailing how she danced for hours with a handsome Black man from Cuba, their bodies pressing tightly together.
Needless to say, Lily’s drunkenness and her stories about dancing with handsome men are out of place in the Crumb household, since Godfrey is so strict. For Ermina and Ernestine, then, Lily’s presence is like a window to the external world, as they can vicariously experience her free, uninhibited lifestyle by listening to her stories.
Themes
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine asks about the dance Lily did with the Cuban man, and she explains that it was the mambo. She then demonstrates the mambo, taking Ernestine’s hand and pulling her through the moves. As they dance, Lily talks about how handsome the Cuban man was, and Ernestine feels overjoyed and thrilled—until, that is, Godfrey appears in the room and angrily tells his daughters to go into the hall.
Unsurprisingly, Godfrey disapproves of Lily’s behavior. He doesn’t want her teaching his daughters about what it’s like to live unencumbered by strict religious rules. Instead, he wants to protect his daughters and ensure that they lead safe, pious lives. 
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Godfrey reprimands Lily for drinking, but she laughs him off and starts talking about the drinking they used to do together. She distinctly remembers him enjoying alcohol, “groping in the darkness,” and becoming “friendly” with her thigh. Enraged, Godfrey tells her to be quiet and once again tells his daughters to leave the room. He also says that Lily would understand his way of thinking if only she came with them to the Peace Mission, where she would learn that alcohol and “loose moral character” only work against Black people.
In this moment, it becomes clear that Godfrey and Lily do, in fact, have some sort of romantic history. But the play doesn’t dwell on this detail, mainly because Godfrey is so eager to get Lily to stop talking about their past in front of his daughters. Instead of speaking openly with Lily about their history, then, he changes the subject by urging her to come to the Peace Mission, once again dealing with his own discomfort by thinking about religion and its ability to steer people toward what he believes are better ways of life.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Godfrey and Lily start arguing about the past, with Godfrey trying to guilt Lily for not being by her sister’s side when she died. Lily, however, claims to still have felt the grief of her sister’s death. Still, Godfrey accuses her of having been too preoccupied with her life in New York—and her involvement in the Communist Party—to support her sister. But Lily refuses to be shamed, saying that she left the South because she didn’t want to stay somewhere she was constantly mistreated. Her comment prompts Godfrey to point out that he himself wasn’t so happy in the South, either.
Although their lives look much different from each other these days, both Godfrey and Lily left the South in an attempt to seek out better lives. And yet, they’ve gone down such different paths that it's difficult for them to find common ground, with Lily leading a progressive, free-thinking life while Godfrey embraces religion.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
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As their argument comes to a head, Lily asks if Godfrey wants her to apologize. If he does, she says, then that’s what she’ll do. She then leans forward and kisses him. For a moment, he relaxes into the kiss. When it’s over, though, he explains that he only wants the best for his daughters so that they can lead better lives than both him and Lily. As long as she’s living with them, then, she has to respect the rules of the house, which means respecting Father Divine.
The fact that Godfrey relaxes into Lily’s kiss shows that he still has feelings for her—or, perhaps, that he’s desperate for some kind of human connection. However, his devotion to religion and the Peace Mission Movement keeps him from fully giving himself over to his desires, which is why he eventually pulls away and reorients himself by telling Lily to respect Father Divine as long as she’s living in the apartment. In doing so, he essentially reminds Lily—and himself—of the unbending commitment he has made to religion.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Godfrey explains that before he devoted himself to Father Divine, all he could do was drink and wallow in sorrow. But following Father Divine’s teachings gave him the courage to make a change. Now that Lily is living in his apartment, though, he’s surrounded by temptation. He speaks poetically about the sound of the music she plays and the smell of alcohol and sweat coming off of her. Losing himself in these sensations, he talks about what it would feel like to go back to a bar and drink and have a good time. He grabs Lily and dances with her for a moment before abruptly letting go and saying that he won’t give in. Then he storms out of the room.
Even after trying to ground himself once again in his religious devotion, Godfrey can’t help but get lost in the idea of embracing Lily and her enticing lifestyle. For him, then, Lily represents the strong temptation to abandon his religious convictions—convictions he has, until this point, been adamant about keeping. It is precisely because he wants so badly to give in to Lily, though, that he ends up rushing out of the apartment, clearly recognizing that his desire for romance and pleasure is as at least as strong as his determination to be pious and celibate.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
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