Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Bynum Walker Character Analysis

A “conjure man” or “rootworker” (somebody who practices folk magic and healing) who lives in Seth and Bertha’s boarding house. Bynum is a wise, existential man who believes that every person has a “song” they must not only identify within themselves but also make “harmonize” with the outside world. Bynum’s own song is the “Binding Song,” meaning that he can join people together. He chose this song, he explains, because when he was a young man traveling from town to town he kept seeing “people walking away and leaving one another.” In a conversation with Selig in Bertha and Seth’s kitchen, Bynum describes how he discovered that each person has a “song,” telling him that he met a “shiny man” who showed him to a place in the road where he spoke to his dead father’s spirit. At this point, Bynum’s father taught him his “song” and told him that if he ever saw a “shiny man” again, he would know that his “song had been accepted and worked its full power in the world and [he] could lay down and die a happy man.” This is why Bynum has hired Selig—the town’s “people finder”—to track down this shiny man. When Herald Loomis arrives at the boarding house, Bynum immediately seems to understand him, standing up for the strange and wearied man when Seth berates him. Indeed, it’s Bynum who speaks with Loomis when Loomis has his strange visions, and when he cuts himself across his chest and rubs blood over his body at the end of the play, Bynum shouts, “Herald Loomis, you shining!” The audience also learns in this scene that Bynum has bound Zonia—Loomis’s daughter—to Martha.

Bynum Walker Quotes in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The Joe Turner’s Come and Gone quotes below are all either spoken by Bynum Walker or refer to Bynum Walker. 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:
Act One: Scene One Quotes

These niggers coming up here with that old backward country style of living. It’s hard enough now without all that ignorant kind of acting. Ever since slavery got over with there ain’t been nothing but foolish-acting niggers. Word get out they need men to work in the mill and put in these roads…and niggers drop everything and head North looking for freedom. They don’t know the white fellows looking too. White fellows coming from all over the world. White fellow come over and in six months got more than what I got. But these niggers keep on coming. Walking…riding…carrying their Bibles. That boy done carried a guitar all the way from North Carolina. What he gonna find out? What he gonna do with that guitar? This the city.

Related Characters: Seth Holly (speaker), Bynum Walker, Jeremy Furlow
Related Symbols: The Guitar
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

My daddy called me to him. Said he had been thinking about me and it grieved him to see me in the world carrying other people’s songs and not having one of my own. Told me he was gonna show me how to find my song. Then he carried me further into this big place until we come to this ocean. Then he showed me something I ain’t got words to tell you. But if you stand to witness it, you done seen something there. I stayed in that place awhile and my daddy taught me the meaning of this thing that I had seen and showed me how to find my song. I asked him about the shiny man and he told me he was the One Who Goes Before and Shows the Way. Said there was lots of shiny men and if I ever saw one again before I died then I would know that my song had been accepted and worked its full power in the world and I could lay down and die a happy man. A man who done left his mark on life. On the way people cling to each other out of the truth they find in themselves. Then he showed me how to get back to the road.

Related Characters: Bynum Walker (speaker), Rutherford Selig
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The roots is a powerful thing. I can fix it so one day he’ll walk out his front door…won’t be thinking of nothing. He won’t know what it is. All he knows is that a powerful dissatisfaction done set in his bones and can’t nothing he do make him feel satisfied. He’ll set his foot down on the road and the wind in the trees be talking to him and everywhere he step on the road, that road’ll give back your name and something will pull him right up to your doorstep. Now, I can do that. I can take my roots and fix that easy. But maybe he ain’t supposed to come back. And if he ain’t supposed to come back…then he’ll be in your bed one morning and it’ll come up on him that he’s in the wrong place. That he’s lost outside of time from his place that he’s supposed to be in. Then both of you be lost and trapped outside of life and ain’t no way for you to get back into it. ’Cause you lost from yourselves and where the places come together, where you’re supposed to be alive, your heart kicking in your chest with a song worth singing.

Related Characters: Bynum Walker (speaker), Mattie Campbell, Jack Carper
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

BYNUM: What you waiting on, Herald Loomis?

LOOMIS: I’m waiting on the breath to get into my body. I can feel it. I’m starting to breathe again.

BYNUM: The breath coming into you, Herald Loomis. What you gonna do now?

LOOMIS: The wind’s blowing the breath into my body. I can feel it. I’m starting to breathe again.

BYNUM: What you gonna do, Herald Loomis?

LOOMIS: I’m gonna stand up. I got to stand up. I can’t lay here no more. All the breath coming into my body and I got to stand up.

BYNUM: Everybody’s standing up at the same time.

LOOMIS: The ground’s starting to shake. There’s a great shaking. The world’s busting half in two. The sky’s splitting open. I got to stand up.
(LOOMIS attempts to stand up.)
My legs…my legs won’t stand up!

Related Characters: Bynum Walker (speaker), Herald Loomis (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, I can look at you, Mr. Loomis, and see you a man who done forgot his song. Forgot how to sing it. A fellow forget that and he forget who he is. Forget how he’s supposed to mark down life. Now, I used to travel all up and down this road and that…looking here and there. Searching. Just like you, Mr. Loomis. I didn’t know what I was searching for. The only thing I knew was something was keeping me dissatisfied. Something wasn’t making my heart smooth and easy. Then one day my daddy gave me a song. That song had a weight to it that was hard to handle. That song was hard to carry. I fought against it. Didn’t want to accept that song. I tried to find my daddy to give him back the song. But I found out it wasn’t his song. It was my song. It had come from way deep inside me. I looked long back in memory and gathered up pieces and snatches of things to make that song. I was making it up out of myself. And that song helped me on the road.

Related Characters: Bynum Walker (speaker), Herald Loomis, Joe Turner
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Joe Turner’s Come and Gone LitChart as a printable PDF.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone PDF

Bynum Walker Character Timeline in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The timeline below shows where the character Bynum Walker 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
...of her boarding house while her husband, Seth, looks out the window. He is watching Bynum, a “rootworker” or “conjure man” who lives in the boarding house. Bynum is currently outside... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
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Seth continues watching Bynum, worried the old man is about to drink pigeon blood, though Bertha assures her husband... (full context)
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Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Bynum says Seth looks sick, but Seth brushes him off, saying even if he were sick,... (full context)
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Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Rutherford Selig, a white man and traveling salesman, knocks on the door. Once he’s inside, Bynum greets him, saying, “If it ain’t Rutherford Selig…the People Finder himself.” Bynum then asks Selig... (full context)
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Bynum tells Selig about how he first met the shiny man, explaining that he came upon... (full context)
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In Bynum’s story, he and this stranger approach a bend in the road, and the man tells... (full context)
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Bynum’s father helps him find his “song,” carrying him into an ocean and showing him something... (full context)
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Bynum tells Selig that he’s been “binding people ever since” learning his “song,” which is why... (full context)
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Bynum asks Herald where he and Zonia are coming from, and Herald says, “Come from all... (full context)
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Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...for her for.” As they talk about her father, Zonia comes into the kitchen and Bynum shows her the door to the backyard.  (full context)
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...young woman named Mattie Campbell comes to the boarding house and asks to speak with Bynum. Sitting in the kitchen, she asks him if he can “fix things” the way people... (full context)
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Mattie ignores Bynum’s warnings, pleading with him to make Jack Carper return to her. She explains that they... (full context)
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...died. Apparently, Eugene used to keep a horde of pigeons, which he sold one-by-one to Bynum for the old man’s rituals. Just before he died, Eugene told Reuben to let his... (full context)
Act One: Scene Two
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...little while before moving to a nearby town to follow the church, which relocated. When Bynum passes through the kitchen, Bertha tells Seth that he’s the one to talk to, since... (full context)
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Bynum enters the kitchen and sits down for breakfast, asking after Herald. Seth tells him Herald’s... (full context)
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Selig arrives and immediately tells Bynum not to ask about the “shiny man” because he hasn’t found him. While Selig pays... (full context)
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When Selig leaves, Bertha enters and Bynum tells her that Herald has hired the People Finder. “You can call him a People... (full context)
Act One: Scene Three
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...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... (full context)
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Bynum tries to teach Jeremy to not treat women as purely physical beings, but Jeremy has... (full context)
Act One: Scene Four
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...suddenly stops in his tracks and falls to the floor, “terror-stricken by [a] vision.” When Bynum goes to him and asks what he’s seen, Loomis says, “I done seen bones rise... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
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...out the water. Rise up and begin to walk on top of it.” Hearing this, Bynum repeats what Herald has said, then asks what happens next. Apparently, the bones suddenly sink... (full context)
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“The breath coming into you, Herald Loomis,” Bynum says. “What you gonna do now?” Answering this question, Herald declares that he’s going to... (full context)
Act Two: Scene One
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Two
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Bynum and Seth sit in the parlor playing dominoes while Bynum sings an old blues song.... (full context)
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Herald asks how Bynum knows so much about him, and Bynum says his father taught him this skill. “Say... (full context)
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...on me? Joe Turner done marked me to where you can see it?” In response, Bynum merely sings the old Joe Turner blues song, which encourages Herald to tell the story... (full context)
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Still telling his story to Seth and Bynum, Herald says that Joe Turner let him go after seven years of forced labor, at... (full context)
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Bynum asks Herald why Joe Turner captured him, but Loomis says he never even got physically... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Three
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When the lights come up onstage, Bynum and Mattie are eating breakfast while Bertha works over the stove. Bynum talks to Mattie... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Four
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The next morning, Zonia and Reuben are playing outside when Reuben says he saw Bynum the previous night “singing and talking to the wind.” He claims that the wind was... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Five
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It is Saturday morning, and Bertha is making breakfast while Bynum, Herald, and Zonia sit at the table waiting for Selig to arrive. It’s raining outside,... (full context)
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As Bertha, Bynum, and Mattie laugh, Seth enters and joins their hysterics. Eventually, he says that Herald is... (full context)
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Martha comforts Zonia and turns to Bynum, thanking him. Seeing this, Herald erupts. “It was you!” he says. “All the time it... (full context)
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Bynum tells Herald that if he can “stand up and sing” his song, he’ll finally be... (full context)
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...said this, he turns and makes his exit, and as Mattie runs to join him, Bynum calls out, “Herald Loomis, you shining! You shining like new money!” (full context)