Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Herald Loomis Character Analysis

A man who appears with his daughter, Zonia, at Seth and Bertha’s boarding house. Although Seth thinks he looks suspicious, he allows him to rent a room. While staying in the house, Herald searches for his wife, Martha, whom he’s apparently been looking for after many years, roaming from town to town with Zonia. Seth, for his part, realizes that the Martha Loomis that Herald is looking for actually lives just outside of town and goes by the name Martha Pentecost. Nonetheless, he keeps this information to himself, and so Herald continues searching for his wife, even paying Selig—the town “people finder”—to track her down. Selig promises to return the following Saturday with information, but while he waits, Herald falls further out of Seth’s good graces. For starters, he renounces Christianity one night, unzips his pants, speaks in tongues, and collapses whilst undergoing some kind of supernatural vision (which Bynum helps him narrate). Later, Loomis reveals that he was captured years ago by Joe Turner, the brother of the governor of Tennessee. Apparently, Joe Turner hunts down black men and forces them to labor for him for seven years at a time. When Herald was finally released, he discovered that Martha had left Zonia with the girl’s grandmother, and so he took his daughter and started searching for his wife. He tells Bynum and Seth that he just needs to see her face so that he can get a “starting place in the world.” When Selig finally brings Martha to him, he has a cathartic experience, cutting his chest and finally feeling like he can begin life again as an individual. As he walks out the door, Bynum yells after him, saying, “Herald Loomis, you shining! You shining like new money!”

Herald Loomis Quotes in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

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

I can’t promise anything but we been finders in my family for a long time. Bringers and finders. My great granddaddy used to bring Nigras across the ocean on ships. That wasn’t no easy job either. Sometimes the winds would blow so hard you’d think the hand of God was set against the sails. But it set him well in pay and he settled in this new land and found him a wife of good Christian charity with a mind for kids and the like and well…here I am, Rutherford Selig. You’re in good hands, mister. Me and my daddy have found plenty Nigras. My daddy, rest his soul, used to find runaway slaves for the plantation bosses. He was the best there was at it. […] Had him a reputation stretched clean across the country. After Abraham Lincoln give you all Nigras your freedom papers and with you all looking all over for each other…we started finding Nigras for Nigras. Of course, it don’t pay as much. But the People Finding business ain’t so bad.

Related Characters: Rutherford Selig (speaker), Herald Loomis
Page Number: 41
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:

(LOOMIS slashes himself across the chest. He rubs the blood over his face and comes to a realization.)
I’m standing! I’m standing. My legs stood up! I’m standing now!
(Having found his song, the song of self-sufficiency, fully resurrected, cleansed and given breath, free from any encumbrance other than the workings of his own heart and the bonds of the flesh, having accepted the responsibility for his own presence in the world, he is free to soar above the environs that weighed and pushed his spirit into terrifying contractions.)

Related Characters: Herald Loomis (speaker), Martha Loomis (Martha Pentecost)
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Joe Turner’s Come and Gone LitChart as a printable PDF.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone PDF

Herald Loomis Character Timeline in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The timeline below shows where the character Herald Loomis 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
Identity Theme Icon
...a wearied looking man and his daughter appear in the kitchen. The man’s name is Herald Loomis, and he asks to rent a room from Seth. Wilson’s stage note describes Loomis... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Bynum asks Herald where he and Zonia are coming from, and Herald says, “Come from all over. Whicheverway... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Seth reenters the kitchen and says he thinks there’s something off about Herald. “I take him up there and try to talk to him and he ain’t for... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...a boy her age named Reuben, who lives next door. Reuben asks why she and Herald are living in Seth’s house, and Zonia tells him that they’re searching for her mother,... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Herald comes into the backyard and interrupts Zonia and Reuben’s conversation, ordering her inside to take... (full context)
Act One: Scene Two
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
...at the kitchen table on the following Saturday, Seth expresses once again his feelings about Herald. Apparently Herald has been seen loitering outside the church just outside town, a fact that... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Bynum enters the kitchen and sits down for breakfast, asking after Herald. Seth tells him Herald’s upstairs, and Bynum remarks that Herald’s going to hire Selig to... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...the “shiny man” because he hasn’t found him. While Selig pays Seth for the dustpans, Herald comes downstairs and asks him to find Martha. Paying him a dollar, he describes his... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Selig tells Herald there’s no guarantee he’ll find be able to find Martha. Nonetheless, he assures his client... (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 him a People Finder if you want... (full context)
Act One: Scene Four
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
All the boarders except Herald eat dinner in the kitchen on Sunday. In good spirits, Seth decides they should “Juba”... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
As Herald unzips his pants, Seth shouts, “Nigger, you crazy!” In response, Herald starts speaking in tongues... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
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“I come to this place…” Herald says, “to this water that was bigger than the whole world. And I looked out…and... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
“The breath coming into you, Herald Loomis,” Bynum says. “What you gonna do now?” Answering this question, Herald declares that he’s... (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 tries to reason with her... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
When Herald enters the kitchen, Seth informs him that he’s going to have to leave, but Loomis... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Two
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...old blues song. “They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone,” he sings, eventually drawing Herald into the room. “Why you singing that song?” he asks. “Why you singing about Joe... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
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Herald asks how Bynum knows so much about him, and Bynum says his father taught him... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
“How you see that?” Herald asks. “I got a mark on me? Joe Turner done marked me to where you... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Still telling his story to Seth and Bynum, Herald says that Joe Turner let him go after seven years of forced labor, at which... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
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Bynum asks Herald why Joe Turner captured him, but Loomis says he never even got physically close enough... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Three
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...gave her, but Bertha tells him to hush. He obeys and leaves the kitchen as Herald enters. When Herald sits to eat, Bertha advises Mattie to not listen to Bynum. “That... (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,... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Four
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Reuben asks Zonia when she and Herald will be leaving, and she tells him they’re getting kicked out on Saturday. Reuben is... (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 to arrive. It’s raining outside, and... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
After Herald and Zonia leave, Bertha remarks that his behavior toward Mattie was “the closest [she] come... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...Bertha, Bynum, and Mattie laugh, Seth enters and joins their hysterics. Eventually, he says that Herald is standing on the corner, just watching the house. At that moment, Selig appears with... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Herald accuses Martha of leaving his daughter “motherless in the world,” but Martha insists she never... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Herald’s disappearance was so painful, Martha explains, that she had to tell herself he’d died. “Even... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Herald listens to Martha’s explanation and says he’s been waiting years to see her face to... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Martha comforts Zonia and turns to Bynum, thanking him. Seeing this, Herald erupts. “It was you!” he says. “All the time it was you that bind me... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
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Bynum tells Herald that if he can “stand up and sing” his song, he’ll finally be free. At... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
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Herald asserts that he doesn’t need anybody to bleed for him, since he can do so... (full context)
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Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
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At this point, Wilson provides a detailed note, establishing that Herald Loomis has finally “found his song, the song of self-sufficiency, fully resurrected, cleansed and given... (full context)