Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by

August Wilson

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Themes and Colors
Migration and Transience Theme Icon
Racism in Post-Slavery America Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Spirituality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Migration and Transience

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a play characterized by transience. Because they’re temporary boarders without permanent homes of their own, all the people living in Seth’s boardinghouse embody the human desire to wander and search. New faces arrive without warning, while prominent characters like Jeremy set off to find a new life before the play has even ended. That this sense of rootlessness runs throughout the play aligns with the historical and cultural…

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Racism in Post-Slavery America

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes place in 1911, 48 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally liberated all slaves in the Union. Even though the play’s characters exist in a post-slavery America—and have for nearly 50 years—their lives are still influenced by the nation’s racist past and present. In particular, Herald Loomis and Jeremy’s everyday lives are directly impacted by the prejudiced and inhumane precedent set by slavery. By showcasing the tangible ways…

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Identity

Identity in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is portrayed as a combination of internal and external forces. Most of the considerations regarding this phenomenon are expressed by Wilson in his stage directions, or by Bynum, who has an abstract conception of what it means for somebody to truly honor his or her own personhood. According to him, everybody has a “song” inside—an idea that ultimately casts selfhood as something intrinsic and interior. At the…

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Spirituality

Spirituality is framed in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone as something people turn to in order to find meaning in their lives. There are, of course, many different kinds of spirituality—a fact Wilson takes into account by portraying characters with wide-ranging belief systems. Bynum, for example, invests himself in old forms of African healing and mystical practices. Loomis’s wife Martha, on the other hand, devotes herself to Christianity, believing that faith in…

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