Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Seth Holly Character Analysis

A middle-aged African-American craftsman who runs a boarding house with his wife, Bertha. Seth is a straightforward thinker, a man inclined to follow rules and work hard even when he’s receiving unfair treatment. Skilled at fashioning pots and pans, he dreams of teaching a small group of men his craft and opening his own shop instead of working for rich white men. Because of his deep sense of pragmatism, he’s highly suspicious of the folk magic that Bynum, one of his residents, practices in the yard. To this end, he constantly criticizes the old man for bringing nonsense into his home. Similarly, he makes it clear to all his residents that he won’t tolerate anything under his roof that might make the house seem unworthy of respect. This is why he so vehemently dislikes Herald Loomis, whom he mistrusts partly because Loomis is looking for a woman he claims is his wife. As it so happens, Seth knows the woman he’s looking for—for the past several years, she has been going by Martha Pentecost, but Seth decides not to tell Loomis this because he doesn’t know what Loomis intends to do when he finds her. When Loomis speaks out against Christianity one night and then proceeds to speak in tongues and fall to the floor while having a frightening vision, Seth decides once and for all to kick him out. Because Loomis has already paid through the week, though, Seth has to let him stay. Even still, he reminds the poor man on a daily basis that he will need to pack up and leave at the end of the week.

Seth Holly Quotes in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The Joe Turner’s Come and Gone quotes below are all either spoken by Seth Holly or refer to Seth 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:
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:

JEREMY: 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? He go around to all the colored and he got ten dollars extra. That’s more than I make for a whole week.

SETH: I see you gonna learn the hard way. You just looking at the facts of it. See, right now, without the job, you ain’t got nothing. What you gonna do when you can’t keep a roof over your head? Right now, come Saturday, unless you come up with another two dollars, you gonna be out there in the streets. Down up under one of them bridges trying to put some food in your belly and wishing you had given that fellow that fifty cents.

JEREMY: Don’t make me no difference. 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.

Related Characters: Seth Holly (speaker), Jeremy Furlow (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Guitar
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Joe Turner’s Come and Gone LitChart as a printable PDF.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone PDF

Seth Holly Character Timeline in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

The timeline below shows where the character Seth 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 out the window. He is watching Bynum, a “rootworker” or “conjure man” who lives... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Seth continues watching Bynum, worried the old man is about to drink pigeon blood, though Bertha... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Bynum says Seth looks sick, but Seth brushes him off, saying even if he were sick, he wouldn’t... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...“shiny man” he hired him to track down. Ignoring him for the moment, Selig gives Seth sheet metal, and the two men make a deal that Seth will buy the material... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...If Bynum followed, he said, he’d show him the Secret of Life. At this point Seth interrupts, pointing out that Selig only gave him six sheets of metal instead of eight,... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Seth chastises Jeremy for getting arrested, telling him he won’t stand for this kind of behavior... (full context)
Identity Theme Icon
...kitchen. The man’s name is Herald Loomis, and he asks to rent a room from Seth. Wilson’s stage note describes Loomis as “a man driven not by the hellhounds that seemingly... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...He goes on to reveal that he’s looking for a woman named Martha Loomis—his wife. Seth says he knows several Marthas, but nobody with the last name Loomis, and Bynum suggests... (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... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...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, who ran away. When... (full context)
Act One: Scene Two
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Sitting at the kitchen table on the following Saturday, Seth expresses once again his feelings about Herald. Apparently Herald has been seen loitering outside the... (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 find... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
...not to ask about 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... (full context)
Act One: Scene Three
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
...the kitchen and announces that he won a dollar in the guitar contest. He asks Seth if Mattie Campbell can move into his room with him, and then pays for her... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
...Molly Cunningham, who asks if there are any available rooms. Stunned, Jeremy eagerly calls for Seth so that he can accommodate Molly.  (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Once downstairs, Seth asks Molly to pay two dollars to stay for the week. As they make the... (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” (a style of singing “reminiscent of the Ring Shouts of the... (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 and dancing around the... (full context)
Act Two: Scene One
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The next morning, Seth raves at the kitchen table, telling Bertha he’s going to kick Herald out after the... (full context)
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... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Mattie leaves for work, and Seth comes inside just before Jeremy also reappears. Seth asks why Jeremy isn’t at work, and... (full context)
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Seth remarks that Jeremy is going to “learn the hard way,” pointing out that without his... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Two
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
Bynum and Seth sit in the parlor playing dominoes while Bynum sings an old blues song. “They tell... (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... (full context)
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
...ask such a question. He resolves that he must have had something Turner wanted, but Seth interrupts to say, “He just want you to do his work for him. That’s all.”... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Three
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Seth comes inside, sees Herald, and reminds him that it’s Tuesday. Annoyed, Bertha pulls her husband... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Four
Spirituality Theme Icon
...Bynum, and then tells Zonia he saw a ghost that very morning. Apparently, he saw Seth’s mother’s spirit, who told him that he has to honor the promise he made to... (full context)
Act Two: Scene Five
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 is standing on the corner,... (full context)