Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Bertha Holly Character Analysis

Seth’s wife, and the co-owner of the boarding house. Although Seth doesn’t like Bynum’s folk magic, Bertha partakes in some of the old man’s rituals. Seth criticizes her for this, pointing out that she is combining Bynum’s spiritualism with Christianity, along with other, simpler superstitions. Despite his criticism, she merely says, “It don’t hurt none. I can’t say if it help...but it don’t hurt none.” By saying this, she reveals her flexibility, her willingness to embrace multiple worldviews. This is the temperament responsible for her easygoing nature and her ready acceptance of people like Bynum and even Herald Loomis, men her husband doesn’t trust.

Bertha Holly Quotes in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The Joe Turner’s Come and Gone quotes below are all either spoken by Bertha Holly or refer to Bertha Holly. 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:
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone published in 1988.
The Play Quotes

SETH: […] All that old mumbo jumbo nonsense. I don’t know why I put up with it.

BERTHA: You don’t say nothing when he bless the house.

SETH: I just go along with that ’cause of you. You around here sprinkling salt all over the place…got pennies lined up across the threshold…all that heebie jeebie stuff. I just put up with that ’cause of you. I don’t pay that kind of stuff no mind. And you going down there to the church and wanna come come [sic] home and sprinkle salt all over the place.

BERTHA: It don’t hurt none. I can’t say if it help…but it don’t hurt none.

Related Characters: Seth Holly (speaker), Bertha Holly (speaker), Bynum Walker
Related Symbols: Pigeons
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Jeremy just young. He don’t know what he getting into. That gal don’t mean him no good. She’s just using him to keep from being by herself. That’s the worst use of a man you can have. You ought to be glad to wash him out of your hair. I done seen all kind of men. I done seen them come and go through here. Jeremy ain’t had enough to him for you. You need a man who’s got some understanding and who willing to work with that understanding to come to the best he can. You got your time coming. You just tries too hard and can’t understand why it don’t work for you. Trying to figure it out don’t do nothing but give you a troubled mind. Don’t no man want a woman with a troubled mind.

You get all that trouble off your mind and just when it look like you ain’t never gonna find what you want […] you look up and it’s standing right there. That’s how I met my Seth. You gonna look up one day and find everything you want standing right in front of you.

Related Characters: Bertha Holly (speaker), Jeremy Furlow, Mattie Campbell, Molly Cunningham
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bertha Holly Character Timeline in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The timeline below shows where the character Bertha Holly appears in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One: Scene One
Spirituality Theme Icon
Bertha Holly prepares breakfast in the kitchen of her boarding house while her husband, Seth, looks... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Seth continues watching Bynum, worried the old man is about to drink pigeon blood, though Bertha assures her husband that this isn’t the case. To take his mind off such matters,... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...referring to Martha Pentecost, a woman Seth knows who apparently looks just like Zonia. When Bertha asks if he told Herald he knows where his wife is, Seth says he didn’t,... (full context)
Act One: Scene Two
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
...church just outside town, a fact that only contributes to his mysterious aspect. Seth reminds Bertha that Martha—whom he’s now sure is Loomis’s wife—stayed in the boarding house for a little... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
When Selig leaves, Bertha enters and Bynum tells her that Herald has hired the People Finder. “You can call... (full context)
Act Two: Scene One
Spirituality Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Three
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
When the lights come up onstage, Bynum and Mattie are eating breakfast while Bertha works over the stove. Bynum talks to Mattie about the charm cloth he gave her,... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Seth comes inside, sees Herald, and reminds him that it’s Tuesday. Annoyed, Bertha pulls her husband out of the kitchen, leaving Herald and Mattie alone. They talk idly... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Five
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
It is Saturday morning, and Bertha is making breakfast while Bynum, Herald, and Zonia sit at the table waiting for Selig... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
After Herald and Zonia leave, Bertha remarks that his behavior toward Mattie was “the closest [she] come to seeing him act... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
As Bertha, Bynum, and Mattie laugh, Seth enters and joins their hysterics. Eventually, he says that Herald... (full context)