Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by

Lynn Nottage

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Crumbs from the Table of Joy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Grief, Loss, and Moving On Theme Icon

Crumbs From the Table of Joy follows the Crump family’s mourning process, as each family member struggles to move on from the death of Ernestine and Ermina’s mother. The play presents the loss of a loved one as something capable of completely halting and even derailing a person’s life. In the first scene, for instance, Ernestine narrates what it was like for the family to lose her mother, explaining that the grief “wouldn’t leave [them] be.” But then her father, Godfrey, moved the family to New York City in an attempt to live closer to Father Divine, whose teachings helped him funnel his sorrow into something else—namely, a deep sense of religious faith and devotion. However, the play implies that even the most seemingly rewarding and meaningful distractions from grief are still just distractions and, thus, are no substitute for genuinely working through and processing such sorrow. Ernestine hints at this when she first meets Godfrey’s new wife, Gerte, pointing out in shock that her mother hasn’t even been dead for a full year. The implication here is that Godfrey hasn’t given himself time to fully mourn his wife’s death, instead trying to address his grief with the quick fix of marrying somebody new. At the same time, though, the play doesn’t necessarily cast doubt on the authenticity of Godfrey’s love for Gerte (he genuinely seems to care for her), nor does it propose what, exactly, is the best way for people to move on after a loved one dies. In turn, the play simply outlines the extreme difficulty of coping with loss, ultimately suggesting that moving on is painful and challenging no matter how a person goes about it.

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Grief, Loss, and Moving On ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Grief, Loss, and Moving On appears in each scene of Crumbs from the Table of Joy. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Grief, Loss, and Moving On Quotes in Crumbs from the Table of Joy

Below you will find the important quotes in Crumbs from the Table of Joy related to the theme of Grief, Loss, and Moving On.
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:

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:
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 1 Quotes

Wait! I…I still got all of these questions I wanted to ask Sweet Father. My pockets are stuffed full of paper. (The banquet table is removed leaving Godfrey sitting alone. Godfrey pulls handfuls of paper from his pocket. Ermina exits.) But, he promised and now I got to wait another year before I get the answers. Oh No! If he is the God he proclaims to be I need his answers now, I need him to help me move on.

Related Characters: Godfrey Crump (speaker), Father Divine
Related Symbols: The Notepad
Page Number: 40-1
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

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: