Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by

Lynn Nottage

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Ernestine Crump Character Analysis

Ernestine is a 17-year-old girl who has recently moved from Florida to Brooklyn with her father, Godfrey, and her younger sister, Ermina. Throughout the play, Ernestine—who is Black—acts as a narrator of sorts, often directly addressing the audience to explain her various reactions to the things happening around her. A quiet, reserved young woman, she loves the movies and likes going to the cinema in New York, where she feels like she can openly weep about the dramatic films without attracting attention. This is especially appealing to her because she and her sister are still mourning the death of their mother, who died not long before Godfrey decided to move the family to Brooklyn. Although her father has devoted himself to a religious leader named Father Divine, Ernestine is skeptical of her family’s new religious affiliations, feeling rather constricted by her father’s overbearing attempt to protect his daughters from sin. At the same time, though, Ernestine is also somewhat of an introvert, spending most of her free time sewing a dress for her upcoming graduation, which is a momentous event because she will be the first person in the family to finish high school. As time passes, Ernestine grows closer to her aunt, Lily, who arrives unannounced one day and moves in with the family. Much to her father’s dismay, Ernestine is moved—albeit somewhat confused—by Lily’s revolutionary and communist ideas. In particular, Lily’s progressive ideas about racism and sexism in the United States resonate with Ernestine, who eventually follows her aunt’s advice to stand up against prejudice and discrimination by making herself “essential,” eventually going to college and becoming an activist in the civil rights movement.

Ernestine Crump Quotes in Crumbs from the Table of Joy

The Crumbs from the Table of Joy quotes below are all either spoken by Ernestine Crump or refer to Ernestine Crump. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
).
Prologue Quotes

Death nearly crippled my father slipping beneath the soles of his feet and taking away his ability to walk at will. Death made him wail like a god awful banshee. (Godfrey wails like a god awful banshee.) Like the 12:01 steam boat mooring. (Godfrey continues to wail.) Death made strangers take hold of our hands and recount endless stories of mommy. In church, at work, strolling, laughing, eating […]. Death made us nauseous with regret. It clipped daddy’s tongue and put his temper to rest. Made folks shuffle and bow their heads. But it wouldn’t leave us be, tugging at our stomachs and our throats. And then one day it stopped and we took the train north to New York City.

Related Characters: Ernestine Crump (speaker), Godfrey Crump, Ermina Crump
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Father Divine…. Ever since Mommy passed on, he stands between us and our enjoyment. Daddy discovered Father Divine when he was searching to cure “the ailments of the heart,” those terrible fits of mourning that set in. (Godfrey begins to weep, loudly.) Father Divine, the great provider, sent his blessing via mail. And shortly there after Daddy was cured.

Related Characters: Ernestine Crump (speaker), Godfrey Crump, Father Divine
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

ERNESTINE. […] Divine was God, and God was liable do as he pleased, but you see Daddy was just a poor colored man — (Godfrey looks up from his newspaper.)

GODFREY. (With Ernestine.) from Pensacola, and I gone out my way to keep trouble a few arms lengths ’way. I don’ want to wind up like them Scottsboro boys, but you wouldn’t remember. (Godfrey speaks, Ernestine mouths the words:) Terrible mess, terrible mess.

Related Characters: Ernestine Crump (speaker), Godfrey Crump (speaker), Ermina Crump, Father Divine
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

GODFREY. You graduating? (Ernestine nods. Godfrey breaks into a smile.) Nah…. A first. You really gonna graduate? You’re gonna be a high school graduate like Percy Duncan, Roberta Miles, Sarah Dickerson, Elmore Sinclair, Chappy Phillips and Ernestine Clump. (Ernestine bashful covers her face.)

ERNESTINE. Not quite yet!

GODFREY. Why didn’t you say something?

ERNESTINE. Didn’t I? (A moment. Godfrey embarrassed takes out his note pad.)

GODFREY. … The New Day come?

Related Characters: Ernestine Crump (speaker), Godfrey Crump (speaker), Ermina Crump, Father Divine
Related Symbols: The Graduation Dress, The Notepad
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

GODFREY. (Flabbergasted.) We’re now part of his flock, we’re capable of entering the Kingdom. (Godfrey, still in the heavenly daze, reaches into his wallet and counts out his money.) This is just about the best news I’ve heard.

Related Characters: Godfrey Crump (speaker), Ernestine Crump, Father Divine
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Ya like my suit? (Ernestine nods.) I bought it on Fifth Avenue, sure did, to spite those white gals. You know how they hate to see a Negro woman look better than they do. It’s my own little subversive mission to out dress them whenever possible. Envy is my secret weapon, babies. If ya learn anything from your Auntie let it be that.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Ernestine Crump
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

Go on say it, tongue won’t fall out. The communist party, amongst other things. (Ermina giggles.) Oh you find that funny? (Earnestly.) I ain’t laughing. I suppose ya happy with what you got, a bit of nothing. Sure I was happy at your age “a little pickaninny” selling hot cakes to the fishermen. Taking pennies from poor people ain’t a job it’s a chore. This may be New York, but this still the basement. Don’t none of those crackers want to share any bit of power with us. That’s what it’s about. Red scare, should be called black scare.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Ermina Crump, Godfrey Crump, Ernestine Crump
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

ERMINA. Why’d you lose your job?

LILY. Well babies, a Negro woman with my gumption don’t keep work so easily. It’s one of the hazards of being an independent thinker.

Related Characters: Ermina Crump (speaker), Lily (speaker), Ernestine Crump
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Nobody ask me…. Besides I never plan to marry. How you like that? I’m exerting my own will, and since the only thing ever willed for me was marriage, I choose not to do it. And why take just one man, when you can have a lifetime full of so many. Listen up, that may be the best advice I give you babies. And you needn’t share that little pearl of wisdom with your daddy.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Ernestine Crump, Ermina Crump, Godfrey Crump
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] I wondered had her revolution already begun? So I went down to the Public library round my way, “Revolution, American, Revolutionary War, Revolution, French.” But no Negro Revolution. I did find twenty entries on communism in the card catalogue, but no books on the shelves. The teacher said, “select a topic that’s close to you.” My essay was entitled “The Colored Worker in the United States,” the mistake was using the word “worker” too liberally. The principal called in Daddy Goodness and told him to stop mingling with the Jews at his job and everything would be all right. Daddy didn’t bother to tell him that his co-workers were all colored. And the Jews on our block won’t speak to us.

Related Characters: Ernestine Crump (speaker), Lily, Godfrey Crump
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Well hell Godfrey I ain’t said nothing about nothing. I can’t help it if that child got eyes and ears, and a mind that ain’t limited to a few pages in the bible.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Godfrey Crump, Ernestine Crump
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 4 Quotes

I left Florida for a reason, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t do nothing but go to work, make my dime and drink it down on Friday night. Then I found something that gave me inspiration, gave me strength to make a change. May not be like your change, revolution! Oh but it do feel that big to me. It soothed my pain and that’s all I want right now. It took all the strength I had to take these gals on a train out their wooden doors and place ’em here in brick and concrete.

Related Characters: Godfrey Crump (speaker), Lily, Ernestine Crump, Ermina Crump, Father Divine
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

And I think I deserve some respect and you’re trying me, you’re trying me. (Sniffs the air. Lily smiles seductively.) I smell the liquor and the sweat. I see the juke box swirling and the cats laughing. (He begins to laugh, lost in the memory.) I can hear the big sister on stage hollering out her song. Go on sing! (He stomps his feet.) But I ain’t going there. Taste my lips puffing on a Cuba, talking out my ass. (He pulls Lily close to him and does a few quick dance steps, then releases her.) Feel my hands ’round a woman’s hips, swaying to the beat. But I ain’t there! (He storms out the door.)

Related Characters: Godfrey Crump (speaker), Lily, Ernestine Crump, Ermina Crump
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

LILY. [..] What? I don’t generally do this, but I’ve been nervous as of late.

GERTE. (Sarcastically.) Just how is your … “revolution?” Working hard? You’re spending a lot of time up at the headquarters in Harlem. Where is it exactly?

LILY. Lenox Avenue.

GERTE. That’s right, Lenox Avenue. I haven’t heard you mention it in quite some time. (Lily stands.)

ERNESTINE. Yeah, you ain’t said much.

LILY. ’Cause it’s liable to end up in one of your essays. You got too much imagination to keep a simple secret.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Gerte (speaker), Ernestine Crump (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

GERTE. Can’t you forget our differences behind this closed door. When I see you I see no color. I see Lily. (She lights a cigarette.)

LILY. Well when I see ya I see a white woman, and when I look in the mirror I see a Negro woman. All that in the confines in this here room. How about that? What do you see Ernie? You see any differences between us?

ERNESTINE. Yeah.

LILY. There you go.

GERTE. May I say to you both, I have seen what happens when we permit our differences—

LILY. (Enraged.) Don’t lecture me about race. You are the last person on earth I’d look to for guidance.

Related Characters: Gerte (speaker), Lily (speaker), Ernestine Crump (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

LILY. […] You expecting too much from that blanched mess of fabric. What’s it gonna get you?

ERNESTINE. I’m gonna graduate in it. I’ll be grown.

LILY. Grown. You think ’cause you got a diploma you grown. You’ll be ready to step out that door in your white dress and get a job or a husband.

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Ernestine Crump (speaker), Gerte
Related Symbols: The Graduation Dress
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

You see Ernestine that’s your America. Negro sitting on his couch with blood dripping down his face. White woman unscathed and the enemy not more than five years back. You can’t bring order to this world. You can’t put up curtains and pot plants and have things change. You really thought you could marry a white woman and enter the kingdom of heaven, didn’t ya?

Related Characters: Lily (speaker), Ernestine Crump, Godfrey Crump, Gerte, Father Divine
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
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Crumbs from the Table of Joy PDF

Ernestine Crump Character Timeline in Crumbs from the Table of Joy

The timeline below shows where the character Ernestine Crump appears in Crumbs from the Table of Joy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Seventeen-year-old Ernestine Crump sits on a park bench in Brooklyn with her 15-year-old sister, Ermina, and her... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Ernestine explains to the audience that her father got a job at a bakery in Brooklyn.... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
It’s the 1950s, and everybody around Ernestine and Ermina is talking about the threat of communism—except, that is, for their father, whose... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
On a Sunday evening, Ernestine and Ermina want to listen to the radio, but Godfrey won’t let them. He reminds... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 1
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
One day, a woman dressed in stylish clothes arrives at the apartment. Ernestine and Ermina reluctantly let her in, though Ermina has no idea who she is. Ernestine... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Godfrey notices that Ernestine is staring at Lily, so he tells her to stop. But Lily doesn’t mind. She... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...makes a comment about how hungry she is, and though she half-heartedly tells Godfrey and Ernestine not to go to any trouble on her behalf, she quickly accepts an offer to... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Godfrey begrudgingly goes into the hall to get Lily’s bags while Lily talks to Ernestine and Ermina. When he returns, he asks if she’s going to stay, and she says,... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine explains to the audience that she, her sister, and her father now share two single... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ermina tells Lily that Ernestine wants to be a movie star, so Lily teases her about trying to be like... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Lily often talks about a “revolution,” causing Ernestine to wonder when, exactly, this cultural push for change will take place. Ernestine envisions the... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...on his block even talk to him. But he doesn’t explain any of this to Ernestine’s principal, simply remaining silent until he gets home, at which point he angrily tells Lily... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Godfrey insists that Ernestine will have to go back to school and apologize for writing about communist ideas in... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine notes that her father might have actually benefitted from reading her essay. If he had,... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine asks about the dance Lily did with the Cuban man, and she explains that it... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
...her as his new wife. Ermina can’t help but exclaim that Gerte is white, and Ernestine says that their mother wouldn’t like this new development—after all, she hasn’t even been dead... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine and Lily are in the living room preparing to leave for the Holy Communion Banquet... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...been laid out on the table—it seems almost obscene to her. At the same time, Ernestine continues to address the audience, suddenly imagining that Gerte jumps up on the table in... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
...and starts imitating the slang she hears in the neighborhood. She also makes fun of Ernestine for being uptight, though even Ermina dislikes it when the other kids make fun of... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Back at the apartment, Gerte chops cabbage as Ernestine works on her graduation dress. Meanwhile, Ermina interrogates Gerte, asking her if she’s anti-Semitic like... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Gerte tries to fill the silence by turning on the radio, but Ernestine reminds her that Godfrey doesn’t like music in the apartment on Sundays, so she shuts... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...about how she spends her days. She hasn’t heard Lily talk about the “revolution” much. Ernestine chimes in to say that Lily has stopped talking about her work in Harlem with... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
...insists that she doesn’t see color when she looks at Lily, but both Lily and Ernestine challenge this—when they look at Gerte, they certainly see a white woman, and when they... (full context)
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Gerte asks Ernestine to get her a bowl, but Lily tries to stop her niece, reminding her that... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
When Ernestine comes back (after having gotten Gerte a bowl), Lily turns the radio back on and... (full context)
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Gerte has left the room, so Ernestine asks Lily if she thinks her mother would have liked the graduation dress she’s making.... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Addressing the audience, Ernestine says that she and Ermina went to the department store to admire the lace every... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Ernestine is in the living room one day when Godfrey and Gerte burst in. Godfrey is... (full context)
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... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine erupts into anger, saying that she hates Gerte and that she’s to blame. Godfrey tells... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
Later, Ernestine cleans up the pieces of paper that have been scattered about the living room. As... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Lily comes back with a bottle of whiskey and tells Ernestine that she’s leaving. She says she has been invited somewhere upstate, where she’ll give a... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine asks Lily to pour her a glass of whiskey, and though Lily notes that Godfrey... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
If Ernestine wants to further the revolution, Lily says, she should simply find herself a good profession.... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Gerte enters the living room, so Lily offers her a drink. For a moment, Ernestine imagines Gerte accepting the drink and then dancing exuberantly with Lily—but this is only what... (full context)
Epilogue
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Ernestine is wearing her graduation dress and holding her diploma. She has just graduated. Back at... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Godfrey doesn’t understand why Ernestine doesn’t want the job at the bakery. When she tells him that she’s going to... (full context)
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
Years later, Ernestine narrates, she will return to Brooklyn to visit Godfrey, Gerte, and Ermina. Ermina will give... (full context)