Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Joe Turner’s Come and Gone: Act One: Scene Three Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On Sunday morning, Jeremy comes into the kitchen and announces that he won a dollar in the guitar contest. He asks Seth if Mattie Campbell can move into his room with him, and then pays for her board. Putting the money in his pocket, Seth heads upstairs. Remaining in the kitchen, Jeremy tells Bynum that he and Mattie are going to keep each other company, seeing that they both have been left by lovers. “Sometimes you got to be where you supposed to be,” Bynum replies. “Sometimes you can get all mixed up in life and come to the wrong place.” Jeremy agrees and begins praising Mattie’s physical attractiveness, but Bynum interjects, saying, “You just can’t look at it like that. You got to look at the whole thing. […] When you grab hold of a woman, you got something there. You got a whole world there.”
Bynum’s assertion that Jeremy should view a woman as an entire “world” rather than just a physical being is significant in a society that is sexist as well as racist, and it also seems to acknowledge that Mattie’s ex-lover Jack probably didn’t see her this way—thus making it easier for him to pick up and leave. This mentality, it seems, is intertwined with the grass-is-greener outlook many of the characters in the play adopt, one in which new places and new people are always seen as better than whatever a person has at a given time. Lust, Bynum suggests, often leads people astray.
Themes
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Bynum tries to teach Jeremy to not treat women as purely physical beings, but Jeremy has trouble absorbing the lesson, saying, “Oh, I ain’t ignoring [Mattie], Mr. Bynum. It’s hard to ignore a woman got legs like she got.” Seeing that his young friend still doesn’t understand, Bynum tells Jeremy to pretend he’s traveling on a ship and looking at a distant horizon. “Now,” he says, “a smart man know when he see that land, it ain’t just a line setting out there. He know that if you get off the water to take a good look…why, there’s a whole world right there.” When a knock sounds on the door, Jeremy answers it to find a stunningly beautiful woman named Molly Cunningham, who asks if there are any available rooms. Stunned, Jeremy eagerly calls for Seth so that he can accommodate Molly. 
Given his wisdom regarding the grass-is-greener mentality of migration and transience, it’s no surprise that Bynum uses a travel-related metaphor to teach Jeremy that women are more than purely physical beings. Indeed, acknowledging that new places are entire worlds unto themselves is something the more transient characters in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone would do well to remember, since every new environment has its own challenges and unattractive elements, which suggests that migration can’t always provide the kind of emotional escape or salvation people are so desperate to find.
Themes
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Once downstairs, Seth asks Molly to pay two dollars to stay for the week. As they make the deal, Molly says, “I forgot to tell you. I likes me some company from time to time. I don’t like being by myself.” Seth says this is acceptable as long as she isn’t working as a prostitute. Having made this agreement, Molly goes outside to visit the outhouse, and Jeremy darts to the window. “Mr. Bynum, you know what?” he says while watching Molly traverse the yard. “I think I know what you was talking about now.”
Once again, Jeremy demonstrates his failure to grasp Bynum’s lesson that women are more than purely physical beings. Of course, this aligns with the migratory impulse that clearly figures so prominently in Jeremy’s personality—for him, newer is always better, and although he’s only recently started a romantic relationship with Mattie, he quickly shifts the focus of his lustful attention to Molly, essentially training his eyes on a new horizon without considering that this horizon is more than a pretty sight.
Themes
Migration and Transience Theme Icon