Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Seth raves at the kitchen table, telling Bertha he’s going to kick Herald out after the scene he made the previous night. Bertha tries to reason with her husband, saying that Loomis was probably just drunk, but Seth refuses to listen and resolves to banish him as soon as he sees him. Soon Molly enters the kitchen, followed shortly thereafter by Bynum, whom Seth thanks for helping calm Herald down. “Mr. Loomis alright, Seth,” Bynum says. “He just got a little excited.” When Mattie comes down for breakfast, she asks if Jeremy has already left for the day, and Bynum assures her that he has, since he has to be at the bridge before the sun rises.
Once again, Seth’s pragmatism and hesitancy to accept any kind of nontraditional spirituality—which he has previously referred to as “mumbo jumbo nonsense”—comes to the forefront of his personality as he resolves to kick Herald out of the boarding house. The fact that he isn’t even open to hearing any sort of explanation denotes just how eager he is to distance himself from what he believes is “nonsense,” an impulse arising from his desire to maintain a “respectable” household so that he can continue his stable lifestyle as a dependable craftsman.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
When Herald enters the kitchen, Seth informs him that he’s going to have to leave, but Loomis points out that he has already paid for the week. “Alright,” Seth concedes. “Fair enough. You stay till Saturday.” After glaring at Seth, Loomis leaves for the day, and Bertha ushers Seth out the back door to go work on his pots and pans. At this point, Molly asks Bynum if he’s “one of them voo-doo people,” and the old man explains that he has the power to “bind folks,” telling her that his father also practiced folk magic, though his power was in healing people. Molly expresses her skepticism, saying she doesn’t want to “be bothered with that kind of thing” because it’s “too spooky.” Upon hearing this, Bynum leaves the kitchen, and Molly turns to Mattie, saying she hopes she didn’t offend the old man.
It’s worth noting in this moment that Seth is apparently not the only person who is deeply suspicious of Bynum’s folk magic and spirituality. Indeed, Molly reveals that she herself is equally cynical regarding what she refers to as “voo-doo” practices, framing the entire enterprise as nothing more than something that might “bother” her. The fact that she says this so bluntly to Bynum indicates to the audience that she is perhaps a rather unsympathetic person, somebody so committed to asserting herself that she ends up putting others down in the process.
Themes
Spirituality Theme Icon
Molly and Mattie talk about men, and Mattie explains that she and Jeremy are “keeping company till maybe Jack come back.” Molly, for her part, asserts that she doesn’t trust men. “They wait just until they get one woman tied and locked up with them…then they look around to see if they can get another one,” she says. When she learns the babies Mattie had with Jack both died, she says this is for the better, since men get women pregnant and then leave. “Molly Cunningham ain’t gonna be tied down with no babies,” Molly says, explaining that she was once in love but that one day she came home and her man was leaving. “Say he was gonna send me a Special Delivery some old day,” she says. In light of this, Molly resolved to not be around to receive the package, deciding to take to the road.
Yet again, Wilson presents the audience with a character who has turned to the road and embraced a life of migration and travel. At this point in the play, Molly’s situation is quite run of the mill: having been left by a lover, she ran from her own pain and threw herself into a transient lifestyle as a way of protecting herself against the hurt that can come along with commitment. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is: this is almost exactly what has happened to Jeremy. As such, Wilson once again demonstrates how common it is for people to use transience as a form of escapism.
Themes
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Mattie leaves for work, and Seth comes inside just before Jeremy also reappears. Seth asks why Jeremy isn’t at work, and Jeremy admits he was fired. “White fellow come by told me to give him fifty cents if I wanted to keep working,” he says. “Going around to all the colored making them give him fifty cents to keep hold to their jobs. Them other fellows, they was giving it to him. I kept hold to mine and they fired me.” Seth is beside himself upon hearing this, saying, “Boy, what kind of sense that make? What kind of sense it make to get fired from a job where you making eight dollars a week and all it cost you is fifty cents.” In response, Jeremy says, “It didn’t make no sense to me. I don’t make but eight dollars. Why I got to give him fifty cents of it?”
This interaction between Seth and Jeremy perfectly represents their contradictory viewpoints when it comes to dealing with racism. Whereas Jeremy acknowledges that he’s being mistreated and thus refuses to be taken advantage of, Seth focuses on the economic implications of losing a job. For him, a certain amount of racial oppression is worth enduring if there’s money and stability on the line. But for a person like Jeremy—a person Wilson describes earlier in the play as somebody   who thinks he can “meet life’s challenges head on”—it makes “no sense” to submit to bigotry, even if speaking out against it will cost him his job.
Themes
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
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Seth remarks that Jeremy is going to “learn the hard way,” pointing out that without his job he has “nothing.” “Don’t make me no difference,” Jeremy replies. “There’s a big road out there. I can get my guitar and always find me another place to stay. I ain’t planning on staying in one place for too long noway.” When Seth leaves again, Jeremy sits down next to Molly and flirtatiously asks how she’s doing. She remarks that he could probably return to work the following day without his employers even noticing, but he confesses that he’s glad to have gotten fired. “I’m tired of working anyway,” he says. Changing the subject, he says, “You sure look pretty.” She ignores his advance, but he presses on, suggesting that they run away together. 
Jeremy’s conviction that it’s not a big deal to have lost his job because there’s “a big road out there” once again underlines the potentially attractive qualities of migration and transience. Indeed, Jeremy uses his desire to roam throughout the nation as a way of dealing with his wrongful termination. As such, his transience is both a product of America’s racism—for which 400 years of slavery set a precedent—and the product of a certain restlessness and a grass-is-greener worldview. In keeping with the latter outlook, he turns his attention to Molly, completely putting Mattie out of his mind because Molly represents something new and unknown.
Themes
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Responding to Jeremy’s suggestion that they elope, Molly reminds him that he’s “tied up with that Mattie Campbell,” but he upholds that they’re merely keeping each other company. He tries to convince her that they could travel around together, but Molly says she can “make it nice by herself too” and that she doesn’t need anybody else to help her do so. Still, Jeremy insists that he can bring his guitar and they can go around making money at dances. Suddenly interested, Molly says he’ll have to do more than play guitar, and he assures her he’s good at gambling, too. “Molly don’t work,” Molly states. “And Molly ain’t up for sale.” Jeremy promises she won’t have to work, and this seems to convince her. “There’s one more thing,” she says. When he asks what it is, she says, “Molly ain’t going South.”
When Molly says Jeremy is “tied up with” Mattie, it’s almost as if she’s purposefully trying to torment his wayward personality by framing his relationship with her as something restrictive and inhibiting. Sure enough, this comment seems to only make Jeremy want to run away with Molly all the more, and he eagerly accepts her rather unreasonable conditions, which state that she won’t help him make money. On another note, her final statement that she won’t travel to the South is Wilson’s way of reminding the audience that this is a play about characters trying to move away from the painful legacy of slavery and America’s terrible history.
Themes
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon