Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by

Lynn Nottage

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Crumbs from the Table of Joy can help.

Crumbs from the Table of Joy: Act 2, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ernestine is in the living room one day when Godfrey and Gerte burst in. Godfrey is bleeding from the head, and Gerte’s dress is covered in blood. Godfrey snatches up Ernestine’s sewing scissors and makes for the door, but Gerte stops him, begging him to stay inside. They were on the subway when a group of white men started heckling them. Godfrey told them not to speak to his wife, and then the white men became even more unruly, eventually calling him the n-word. A fight ensued, and the racist men smashed a Coke bottle over Godfrey’s head. Meanwhile, everyone looked on as if the racists were doling out justice.
The play has already hinted at the various dangers that unfortunately come along with a Black man marrying a white woman in 1950s American society—a society that is extremely intolerant about the idea of Black men having intimate relationships with white women. The Crumb family has now experienced just how intolerant and narrow-minded their surrounding society can be in this regard.
Themes
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
In the commotion, Godfrey knocks over Ernestine’s sewing mannequin and angrily asks why it’s there. Meanwhile, Gerte wishes Godfrey hadn’t even responded to the white men. She also wants to call the police, but Lily tries to explain that the police wouldn’t do anything. In response, Gerte angrily asks where Lily’s “revolution” is now, complaining that a Black man and his white wife can’t even mind their own business on a Saturday evening without encountering trouble. Lily just welcomes Gerte to the real world—this, she suggests, is the reality of living in a racist society. But Gerte still doesn’t understand why or how this happened.
Gerte’s disbelief highlights her naïve ideas about racism in the United States. She clearly thinks that intense racial discrimination and violence is a thing of the past. The play’s Black characters, though, know all too well that this isn’t the case. Just because Gerte herself has never experienced or witnessed overt racism doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent—a lesson Gerte has now learned the hard way, though she still seems eager to believe that this incident was nothing more than a fluke that can be remedied by calling the police. Even after the attack, then, she has unrealistic ideas about racism.
Themes
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Ernestine erupts into anger, saying that she hates Gerte and that she’s to blame. Godfrey tells her not to say such things, but Lily defends her niece, suggesting that Father Divine inspired Godfrey to marry a white woman without urging him to consider the real-world consequences. She tells Ernestine that this is a perfect representation of American culture: Godfrey is bleeding from the head, but Gerte—his white wife—is completely unharmed.
Lily suggests that Father Divine’s example of marrying a white woman led Godfrey astray, since Father Divine never acknowledged the potential perils of doing such a thing while living in a racist society. By saying this, Lily effectively challenges Godfrey’s entire worldview, since criticizing Father Divine means criticizing the things Godfrey holds closest to his heart. In turn, Lily’s words invite everyone—including the audience—to consider the downsides of unquestioningly following a religious leader like Father Divine.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Godfrey responds by sarcastically apologizing that he can’t meet Lily’s high standards, suggesting that maybe she should find a place where she’ll be with like-minded people. When Lily asks if he’s telling her to leave, he simply says that he won’t “sacrifice” his own needs for hers. She then asks if she isn’t good enough for him, and when he says that she’s “plenty good,” she asks why, in that case, she isn’t the one sharing his bed with him. He tries to tell her that they’re on different paths, since she’s a communist. She tries to get him to reminisce about their past together, but he cuts her off, saying that he isn’t the same man as he used to be.
Finally, Lily explicitly acknowledges her desire to be in a romantic relationship with Godfrey. It’s clear that she originally came to the apartment with this in mind, but Godfrey maintains that they could never be together because they’ve grown apart. Of course, he’s right that their paths have diverged, but it’s worth noting that they actually have quite a bit in common—after all, they’ve both devoted themselves to things that are bigger than themselves: Godfrey has given himself to God and the Peace Mission Movement, and Lily has committed herself to activism and the Communist Party. Because Godfrey has embraced a fairly restricted lifestyle, though, he could never embrace Lily’s progressive, free-thinking worldview.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Get the entire Crumbs from the Table of Joy LitChart as a printable PDF.
Crumbs from the Table of Joy PDF
Godfrey criticizes Lily for filling his daughters’ heads with bad ideas. In response, Lily says she’s tired of being blamed for everything—she’s sorry about what happened to Godfrey and Gerte on the subway, but she will never apologize for who she is. In fact, she feels as if Godfrey owes her an apology, and when he doesn’t give her one, she storms out of the apartment.
Lily stands her ground in this conversation. She recognizes that her beliefs don’t align with Godfrey’s, but she refuses to renounce those beliefs simply to please him. After all, she has already made it clear that she’s a free-thinking, independent person, so she would never undermine her values for someone else’s sake.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
After Lily leaves, Gerte says that although she has nothing against Lily, she thinks it’s unfair that Lily is always standing between her and Godfrey. She says that Godfrey has to make a choice, and when he uncomfortably points out that asking Lily to leave would be like leaving behind “everything that came before” in his life, Gerte points out that this is exactly what she herself has done. Godfrey then pulls out his notepad, but Gerte stops him, saying that he spends too much time writing down questions. She grabs boxes of paper hiding beneath the furniture and starts flinging the many questions into the air, telling her husband to pay attention to the real world—if he does that, she says, he won’t have so many questions.
Although Godfrey has made it very clear to Lily that they will never be together, he has trouble leaving her completely behind, since doing so would be like erasing everything about his past—suggesting that he still has a soft spot for the person he was and the life he led before finding the Peace Mission Movement. The entire conversation is so distressing to him that he tries to retreat into his religious devotion by writing down questions in his notepad, but Gerte finally stops him from doing so, showing him that he uses his commitment to Father Divine as a way of running from his own life.
Themes
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon