Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Rutherford Selig Character Analysis

A white man who sells materials to Seth and then buys them back once he’s made them into pots, pans, or dustpans. Taking Seth’s goods, Selig goes door-to-door, selling the wares and giving Seth a cut of the profits. Because he travels so widely as a salesman, he’s known as a “people finder,” somebody capable of tracking down lost love ones for people who pay him to do so. Bynum, for example, has paid Selig to find his “shiny man.” When Herald Loomis arrives in Seth’s boarding house, he hires Selig to track down Martha, his wife. In the play’s final scene, Selig makes good on his promise and brings Martha into the kitchen. Another important thing to know about Rutherford Selig is that he comes from a long line of “bringers and finders.” Indeed, his great-grandfather brought Africans to America to sell them into slavery, his father used to track down escaped slaves or plantation owners, and now—in the decades after slavery has been abolished—he himself finds black people for other black people.

Rutherford Selig Quotes in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The Joe Turner’s Come and Gone quotes below are all either spoken by Rutherford Selig or refer to Rutherford Selig. 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

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:

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:
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Rutherford Selig Character Timeline in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The timeline below shows where the character Rutherford Selig 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
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Bynum tells Selig about how he first met the shiny man, explaining that he came upon him while... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...into an ocean and showing him something that Bynum “ain’t got words to tell” to Selig. For a while, Bynum stays and learns his “song,” eventually asking his father about the... (full context)
Spirituality Theme Icon
Bynum tells Selig that he’s been “binding people ever since” learning his “song,” which is why people call... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...Marthas, but nobody with the last name Loomis, and Bynum suggests that Herald speak to Selig the following Saturday, telling him that the white man is a “first-class People Finder.” When... (full context)
Act One: Scene Two
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
...after Herald. Seth tells him Herald’s upstairs, and Bynum remarks that Herald’s going to hire Selig to find Martha. “Selig can’t find her,” Seth says. “He talk all that…but unless he... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Selig arrives and immediately tells Bynum not to ask about the “shiny man” because he hasn’t... (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... (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... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Five
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
...Bertha is making breakfast while Bynum, Herald, and Zonia sit at the table waiting for Selig to arrive. It’s raining outside, and Bynum posits that the roads have washed out, making... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
...says that Herald is standing on the corner, just watching the house. At that moment, Selig appears with Martha Loomis (also known as Martha Pentecost), who’s dressed “as befitting a member... (full context)