Sweat

by

Lynn Nottage

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Chris Character Analysis

Chris is a young African American man; he’s Cynthia and Brucie’s son and Jason’s best friend. In 2008, Chris and Jason are 29 years old and have just been released from eight-year prison sentences for assaulting Oscar, a busboy at the bar in Reading, Pennsylvania, that they frequented. During the beating, Jason also inadvertently hit the bartender, Stan, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. Back in 2000, before the assault, 21-year-old Chris has followed in his parents’ footsteps and gone to work at Olstead’s Steel Tubing plant straight out of high school. But he has bigger aspirations than this: he’s been accepted to Albright College’s teaching program. However, this goes out the window when a lockout is instituted at Olstead’s, and Chris is swept up into the collective outrage and union protests that ensue. Seemingly more thoughtful and less impulsive than Jason, Chris is conflicted between walking the line and moving on from Reading altogether—especially having witnessed Brucie’s descent into drug addiction during his own lockout at a local textile mill. Eventually, tensions flare between the locked-out floor workers at Olstead’s and the Latinx temp workers who’ve been brought in (Oscar among them). Against his better judgement, Chris is swept up in Jason’s violent rage and joins him in beating Oscar. After serving his sentence for this crime, Chris is consumed with shame and guilt and struggles to reintegrate into society. He turns to Christianity for solace, and his parole officer, Evan, encourages him to forgive himself. Chris and Jason ultimately reunite amicably, and they both take the difficult step of returning to the bar to make amends with Oscar and Stan. Introspective, hard-working, and riddled with conflicting emotions, Chris’s character exemplifies how financial hardship can ripple outward to wreak havoc on people’s lives, as well as how shame can be destructive and forgiveness can be healing.

Chris Quotes in Sweat

The Sweat quotes below are all either spoken by Chris or refer to Chris. 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:
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Theatre Communications Group edition of Sweat published in 2017.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

CHRIS (Escalating emotions): I dunno. A couple minutes, and your whole life changes, that’s it. It’s gone. Every day I think about what if I hadn’t…You know…I run it and run it, a tape over and over again. What if. What if. What if. All night. In my head. I can’t turn it off. Reverend Duckett said, “Lean on God for forgiveness. Lean on God to find your way through the terrible storm.” I’m leaning into the wind, I’m fuckin’ leaning […] What we did was unforgiveable…

Related Characters: Chris (speaker), Evan, Jason
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

JASON: […] But seriously, man, why didn’t you tell me?

CHRIS: Cuz—

JASON: Shit, I just kinda thought we’d retire and open a franchise together. We’re a team, you can’t leave!!

CHRIS: Yeah, I can.

JASON: What about me?

CHRIS: What about you?

JASON: You coulda told me.

CHRIS: Dude, it’s just something I gotta do.

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Chris (speaker), Stan, Tracey, Cynthia
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

CYNTHIA: […] You know after everything. I wanna say that…

(Cynthia fights back emotions.)

I’m sorry.

CHRIS: For what?

CYNTHIA: It’s just, I shoulda…

(Chris places his arms around Cynthia.)

CHRIS: C’mon. C’mon. I don't want this to be a big deal. Tell me about what’s been going on. You hear from the old gang? Tracey?

CYNTHIA: Fuck her. After what went down. We don’t really—

Related Characters: Cynthia (speaker), Chris (speaker), Tracey, Jason, Oscar
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 7 Quotes

EVAN: I’ve seen enough guys in your situation to know that over time it’s…it’s crippling. I’m not a therapist, I’m not the right dude to talk to about any of this. But what I do know, is that it’s not a productive emotion. Most folks think it’s the guilt or rage that destroys us in the end, but I know from experience that it’s shame that eats us away until we disappear. You put in your time. But look here, we been talking, and we can keep talking—but whatcha gonna do about where you’re at right now?

Related Characters: Evan (speaker), Jason, Chris, Oscar, Stan
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sweat LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sweat PDF

Chris Character Timeline in Sweat

The timeline below shows where the character Chris appears in Sweat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...going to let Jason off the hook. Finally, Jason reveals that he recently ran into Chris; to his own surprise, he becomes emotional at this admission. Evan asks Jason what he’s... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Evan turns around, and the scene switches: he’s now in a parole meeting with Chris, an African American man. Chris, visibly nervous, tells Evan that things have been tough and... (full context)
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Evan points out that Chris seems anxious, and Chris replies that he’s angry with himself. He pauses introspectively before admitting... (full context)
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Chris begins to emotionally spiral, telling Evan how he constantly thinks about what would have happened... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...of the Republican Primary after having invested $66 million into his own campaign. Jason and Chris stand at the bar, tipsy, while Oscar works and listens in the background. Jason shows... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...he has little money left over because the union appropriates most of it for benefits. Chris commiserates with Jason—between his new girlfriend, high taxes, and the temptation to buy things like... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...Olstead’s given how high the pay is and how in-demand jobs at the plant are. Chris counters that he has aspirations and wants to do something different than his parents. Jason... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Chris continues to defend his decision to leave Olstead’s, complaining about the loud machines and reasoning... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...bar doesn’t seem to align with rehab. Cynthia tells Brucie the news about their son Chris’s acceptance to Albright, urging him to be supportive even though Brucie think tuition is too... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
...never spoke to anyone else in the office part of the plant before now. Suddenly, Chris and Jason burst into the bar, immediately infecting the room with energy. They wish Jessie... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Chris comments on how professionally Cynthia is dressed, and Cynthia and Jessie reminisce about how they... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...isn’t telling them and if there are going to be layoffs, which alarms Jason and Chris. Cynthia hesitates to answer. She admits that there’s been talk of cutting overhead, and Tracey... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 7
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
...on a recent increase in violent crime and takes measures to combat urban blight. As Chris and Jason rush out of the bar, Brucie (who’s smoking a cigarette outside) asks Chris... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Brucie laughs cynically and warns Chris and Jason that this is only the first step; he advises them to take the... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The scene switches to Chris, who’s come to visit Cynthia at her barren apartment. Chris asks when she moved, and... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Changing the subject, Cynthia invites Chris to sit down and relax, and they each comment on how different the other looks.... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...leadership opportunities for minority employees. In the bar, Stan and Oscar look on as Tracey, Chris, Jason, and Jessie yell at Cynthia, demanding to know what’s going on. Cynthia pleads with... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...significant concessions. Tracey says that they’re not afraid to strike in response, and Jason and Chris agree. Cynthia says that long-time employees are at risk of being fired because they get... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Jason and Chris try to reassure the others that the union will fight for them, but Cynthia counters... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...sooner burn the factory down than allow Olstead’s to take away her livelihood. Jason and Chris back her up. Cynthia says that now that they know what’s coming, they must decide... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...so she fully understands the gravity of the situation. However, she also thinks that getting Chris out of Olstead’s could be a silver lining. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...Olympics; three Mexican migrant farmworkers in Reading are killed in a car accident. Jason and Chris stumble into the bar, where Brucie is slumped over at a table, looking high. Relieved... (full context)
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Chris tells Brucie not to let the lockout get to him, and Brucie reassures Chris that... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Brucie worries that protesting with the union isn’t such a good idea for Chris, but Chris remembers the first time Brucie walked out of his job: Brucie held a... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Chris says that this memory inspires him to be remain strong on the line; he and... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...in the polls leading up to Election Day; Reading proposes an increase on income tax. Chris and Jason burst into the bar, where a drunk Jessie is sitting at a table.... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Chris is tired of talking about all this; he suggests they get drunk, smoke a blunt,... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Just then, Tracey emerges from the bathroom and asks Jason to buy her a drink. Chris offers to pay instead, and Jessie rouses and asks for a drink as well. Stan... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Chris and Stan try to calm Jason down, reasoning that the situation at Olstead’s isn’t Oscar’s... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Despite Chris’s pleas to let Oscar pass, Jason won’t back down—he doesn’t know why, but he can’t... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...news, U.S. stocks fall 733 points, the second-worst decline in history. In his parole meeting, Chris finishes telling Evan about his encounter with Jason. Evan reassures him that it’s okay not... (full context)
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...shifts, and the scene switches. He’s now talking with Jason. Evan suggests that Jason and Chris meet up to talk. Jason hasn’t thought about the assault in a long time, but... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 8
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...American immigrants are leaving the U.S. as manual labor and service industry jobs dry up. Chris enters the bar, which has been refurbished, and sits at a table. Oscar is standing... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Just as Chris is about to say something, Jason walks in. Oscar grows nervous and asks what’s going... (full context)