Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by

Lynn Nottage

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Gerte is a white woman from Germany who meets Godfrey on the New York City subway. When they happen to meet, Godfrey is in the midst of feeling overwhelmed by his conflicting desires to embrace Lily’s affection and stay true to his religious beliefs. Gerte, for her part, has just arrived in the United States and asks for Godfrey’s help navigating the subway system, asking if New Orleans if far away—a good indication that she’s quite unfamiliar with the country, which she later reveals she has idealized after learning to love American jazz. Gerte and Godfrey end up getting hastily married, which doesn’t go over well in the Crump family. Both Ernestine and Ermina can’t believe their father would not only remarry less than a year after the death of their mother but also marry a white woman. Lily is also shocked by this development, apparently having thought she and Godfrey might eventually rekindle their romantic feelings for each other. Gerte, however, finds it difficult to understand why it matters if a Black man marries a white woman, revealing a certain inability to grasp the tense and complex dynamics surrounding race relations in the United States. When racists attack Godfrey for being with a white woman, she is more shocked than anyone in the family, once again failing to recognize the ugly reality of American racism. She has a tense relationship with everyone in the Crump family, but Godfrey stands by her, eventually asking Lily to leave in order to protect his marriage to Gerte.

Gerte Quotes in Crumbs from the Table of Joy

The Crumbs from the Table of Joy quotes below are all either spoken by Gerte or refer to Gerte. 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
).
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

GERTE. So where are the warriors in your revolution now? Why don’t they help us? How are we to lead our lives if we can’t go out for a … a picture show on a Saturday night.

LILY. Welcome to our world, […]. You ain’t supposed to period! Stop! Thought you knew about all these things being from Germany and all.

Related Characters: Gerte (speaker), Lily (speaker), Godfrey Crump
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

GODFREY. I’ll make a note to speak to her later.

GERTE. STOP! You’ve assembled lists that run miles and miles. There’s an entire closet crowded with paper and scribbles of things you need to know, things you want to do, questions that must be answered. It would make three lifetimes to get through all of it.

[…]

GERTE. If you’d pay attention to the world around you, you wouldn’t have so many questions to ask.

Related Characters: Gerte (speaker), Godfrey Crump, Lily, Father Divine
Related Symbols: The Notepad
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
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Crumbs from the Table of Joy PDF

Gerte Character Timeline in Crumbs from the Table of Joy

The timeline below shows where the character Gerte appears in Crumbs from the Table of Joy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 5
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
...he’s away, hardly looking up at his surroundings. At one point, a German woman named Gerte asks him for help, wanting to know if she’s in the Bronx. He’s wary of... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
...explaining that he simply needed to clear his head. Things get tense again, though, when Gerte steps into the room and Godfrey introduces her as his new wife. Ermina can’t help... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Godfrey and Gerte are at the Peace Mission preparing for the banquet. Godfrey is busy trying to decide... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
...fun of them for living with a white woman. And yet, Ermina can only defend Gerte so much, since she herself doesn’t like that her father married a white woman. If... (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... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Gerte tries to fill the silence by turning on the radio, but Ernestine reminds her that... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
After speaking admiringly about jazz, Gerte goes over to the radio and turns it off, noting that Godfrey doesn’t like it... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
Gerte asks Lily about how she spends her days. She hasn’t heard Lily talk about the... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Gerte, for her part, insists that she doesn’t see color when she looks at Lily, but... (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... (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 explains to her niece that the... (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... (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 bleeding from the head, and Gerte’s dress is covered in blood.... (full context)
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
...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... (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 her not to say such things, but Lily... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Faith, Devotion, and Hope Theme Icon
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon
After Lily leaves, Gerte says that although she has nothing against Lily, she thinks it’s unfair that Lily is... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
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... (full context)
Epilogue
Racism and Opportunity Theme Icon
Critical Thinking and Open-Mindedness Theme Icon
...graduation dress and holding her diploma. She has just graduated. Back at the apartment, Godfrey, Gerte, and Ermina throw a celebratory party for her. As they celebrate, though, Godfrey reveals that... (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 birth to her first child before Ernestine has graduated college.... (full context)