Sweat

by

Lynn Nottage

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Tracey Character Analysis

Tracey is a middle-aged white woman of German descent; she’s Jason’s mother and Hank’s widow. In 2000, Tracey and her best friends, Cynthia and Jessie, have worked at Olstead’s Steel Tubing in Reading, Pennsylvania, for over 20 years. They spend most of their downtime in the local bar socializing with one another and with Stan, the bartender (who often flirts with Tracey and playfully references their past sexual encounter). Tracey is a “laugher”—she uses humor as a means of escape and loves to drink, gossip, and dance. She’s also a hardworking, traditional woman who dislikes the ways Reading has changed over the years. In particular, Tracey is bitter about Reading’s growing Latinx immigrant population, whom she views as outsiders coming to steal away jobs. Her racist beliefs become even more pronounced when Cynthia gets a promotion at Olstead’s, and Tracey resentfully claims that her friend was only chosen because she’s black. After Olstead’s institutes a lockout and hires Latinx temp workers (including Oscar, the busboy at the bar), Tracey becomes despondent and purposeless without her job and increasingly hateful toward Oscar. This culminates in Tracey encouraging her son Jason and Cynthia’s son Chris to attack Oscar, an assault that inadvertently leaves Stan with a traumatic brain injury and lands Jason and Chris with eight-year prison sentences. When the play picks up with Tracey eight years after this incident, she’s seemingly out of work, addicted to pain pills, and estranged from her former friends and from Jason. Tracey’s unfortunate trajectory exemplifies how a combination of economic hardship, resentment, and prejudice can effectively destroy a person’s life and the lives of those around them.

Tracey Quotes in Sweat

The Sweat quotes below are all either spoken by Tracey or refer to Tracey. 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 2 Quotes

CYNTHIA: […] let me tell you something, once he started messing with that dope, I don’t recognize the man. I know it’s tough out there, I understand. Yeah, yeah, yeah. He went through hell when his plant locked him out, I understand, but I can’t have it.

Related Characters: Cynthia (speaker), Brucie, Stan, Tracey
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

STAN: Says he got wind that they were gonna cut back his line at the plant. Couldn’t handle the stress.

CYNTHIA: That rumor’s been flying around for months. Nobody’s going anywhere.

STAN: Okay, you keep telling yourself that, but you saw what happened over at Clemmons Technologies. No one saw that coming. Right? You could wake up tomorrow and all your jobs are in Mexico, whatever, it’s this NAFTA bullshit—

Related Characters: Stan (speaker), Cynthia (speaker), Freddy Brunner, Tracey
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 19-20
Explanation and Analysis:

CYNTHIA: Who knows? I might apply.

TRACEY: What?! Get outta here.

CYNTHIA: Why the hell not? I’ve got twenty-four years on the floor.

TRACEY: Well, I got you beat by two. Started in ’74, walked in straight outta high school. First and only job. Management is for them. Not us.

CYNTHIA: More money. More heat. More vacation. Less work. That’s all I need to know.

Related Characters: Cynthia (speaker), Tracey (speaker), Stan, Brucie
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 24
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 1, Scene 5 Quotes

TRACEY: […] I know the floor as good as Cynthia. I do. […] I betcha they wanted a minority. I’m not prejudice, but that’s how things are going these days. I got eyes. They get tax breaks or something. […] I’m not prejudice, I say, you are who you are, you know? I’m cool with everyone. But I mean…c’mon…you guys coming over here, you can get a job faster than—

OSCAR: I was born here.

TRACEY: Still…you weren’t born here, Berks.

OSCAR: Yeah, I was.

TRACEY: Yeah? Well, my family’s been here a long time. Since the twenties, okay? They built the house that I live in. They built this town.

Related Characters: Tracey (speaker), Oscar (speaker), Cynthia
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 48-49
Explanation and Analysis:

TRACEY: […] It was back when if you worked with your hands people respected you for it. It was a gift. But now, there’s nothing on Penn. You go into buildings, the walls are covered over with sheetrock, the wood painted gray, or some ungodly color, and it just makes me sad. It makes me…whatever.

OSCAR: You okay?

TRACEY: Listen, that piece of paper you’re holding is an insult, it don’t mean anything, Olstead’s isn’t for you.

Related Characters: Tracey (speaker), Oscar (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 1, Scene 6 Quotes

CYNTHIA: […] I don’t deserve the things you’ve been saying. You’ve always been cool. Be angry, but don’t make it about this…(Points to the skin on the back of her hand) Look at me, Tracey. You don’t want to go down that road, we’ve got too much history between us. You got a problem, you tell me to my face.

Related Characters: Cynthia (speaker), Tracey
Page Number: 59
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 3 Quotes

CYNTHIA: I’ve stood on that line, same line since I was nineteen. I’ve taken orders from idiots who were dangerous, or even worse, racist. But I stood on line, patiently waiting for a break. I don’t think you get it, but if I walk away, I’m giving up more than a job, I’m giving up all that time I spent standing on line waiting for one damn opportunity.

TRACEY: You want us to feel sorry for you?

CYNTHIA: …I didn’t expect you to understand, babe. You don’t know what it’s been like to walk in my shoes. I’ve absorbed a lotta shit over the years, but I worked hard to get off that floor. Call me selfish, I don’t care, call me whatever you need to call me, but remember, one of us has to be left standing to fight.

Related Characters: Cynthia (speaker), Tracey (speaker), Jessie
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 6 Quotes

JASON: […] Eleven dollars an hour? No thank you. They’ll work us down to nothing if we let ‘em. “Jacking ain’t for softies!” But they know they can always find somebody willing to get their hands sweaty. And they’re right. There will always be someone who’ll step in, unless we say NO!

STAN: Look. Olstead is a prick. If he was here I wouldn’t stop you. In fact I’d hold him down for you to give him a proper beating, but Oscar…he’s another story.

[…]

JASON: […] All I’m saying is that he needs to understand the price of that dinner he’s putting on his table.

STAN (Shouts): What the fuck do you want him to do? Huh? It ain’t his fault. Talk to Olstead, his cronies. Fucking Wall Street. Oscar ain’t getting rich off your misery.

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Stan (speaker), Oscar, Tracey, Jessie
Related Symbols: The Bar
Page Number: 101-102
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sweat LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sweat PDF

Tracey Character Timeline in Sweat

The timeline below shows where the character Tracey appears in Sweat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...is playing on a jukebox as a rowdy celebration winds down. Longtime friends Cynthia and Tracey, both middle-aged women, are drunkenly dancing with each other. The bartender, Stan, smiles as he... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Cynthia and Tracey tease Stan as they dance seductively, prodding him to join them. Stan resists, and the... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Stan offers Tracey another drink and smiles at her seductively, but she lightheartedly rejects his advances and tells... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Stan comments on the successful night—lots of people turned out for Tracey’s birthday party. Stan was hoping to see Brucie, but Cynthia reveals that she kicked Brucie... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
...warns that people’s jobs could be outsourced to Mexico at any moment because of NAFTA. Tracey tries to make a joke out of this, but Stan cautions that it’s unwise to... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Tracey diverts, wondering aloud if it’s illegal to burn your own house down. Stan thinks it’s... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
With Jessie gone, Cynthia tells Tracey she needs to talk to Jessie about her drinking problem—Jessie keeps showing up to work... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Incredulous, Tracey points out that she’s been working the floor for 26 years, since she graduated high... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Suddenly, they hear a drunken commotion from the bathroom, and Cynthia and Tracey agree that Jessie is dragging them down even though they love her. They make snide... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...him out after his 21st birthday last October. Stan comments that this does sound like Tracey. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Just then, Cynthia, Tracey, and Jessie enter the bar. Cynthia and Brucie have a tense exchange, and Tracey and... (full context)
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The conversation then turns to the promotion to Warehouse Supervisor that Cynthia and Tracey are both going for. Brucie offends Cynthia with a joke that Olstead’s must be desperate... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...the “tech bubble” has recently burst, causing a record 617-point drop in the Dow Jones. Tracey is smoking outside the bar, and Oscar steps out to ask her for a cigarette.... (full context)
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Changing the subject, Oscar notes the loud party in the bar, and Tracey informs him that they’re celebrating Cynthia’s recent promotion. She tells Oscar that she’s just as... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Tracey responds that her family has been in Reading since the 1920s—“they built this town.” She... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...the counter. Oscar plays a handheld video game behind the bar. Jessie tells Stan that Tracey and Cynthia were supposed to meet her here an hour ago. Stan asks if something... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Jessie says she’s sick of being stuck in the middle between Tracey and Cynthia; she gives up on waiting and asks Stan to get a knife for... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
...motorcycle. Jason asks where his mom is, but Jessie doesn’t know; Jason reassures her that Tracey will show up. (full context)
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Just then, Tracey rushes into the bar and announces that the party can begin. She and Cynthia get... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Tracey admits that she’s hurt because Cynthia is rubbing elbows with management while ignoring Tracey on... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
...Berks County, Pennsylvania, experiences a 111-percent rise in power shutoffs. Jason has come to visit Tracey, and he’s disappointed that his mom isn’t happy to see him—she forbids Jason from sitting... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Shame, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...shoulda…” though Chris doesn’t think she has anything to be sorry about. Chris asks about Tracey, but Cynthia says tells him they’re not in contact anymore “after what went down.” Chris... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...more 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... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...going to renegotiate the floor workers’ contracts, and they’re prepared to fight for significant concessions. Tracey says that they’re not afraid to strike in response, and Jason and Chris agree. Cynthia... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...urges her friends to meet them halfway unless they want to lose their jobs entirely. Tracey is incensed—she demands that Cynthia back up her claims that she’s on their side with... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
...to save jobs, and Olstead’s will lock them out if they don’t accept. At this, Tracey exclaims, “Fuck you! Fuck them!” and declares that she’d sooner burn the factory down than... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Just then, Tracey and Jessie enter the bar. The mood immediately darkens; Tracey accuses Cynthia of being a... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Still, Tracey refuses to hear Cynthia out and scoffs at the idea of taking the deal. She... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
Tracey begins to reminisce about their trip to Atlantic City with Brucie and Hank for Cynthia’s... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Just as Oscar goes to take some beer crates to the back, Tracey walks into the bar. She orders a double vodka and updates Stan on the lockout:... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Oscar walks back in, looking uncomfortably at Tracey. Tracey is immediately hostile, hurling racial slurs at Oscar. She charges at Oscar, but Stan... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 6
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... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...Olstead’s isn’t Oscar’s fault—he’s only trying to make a living just like they are. But Tracey and Jessie egg Jason on, and he maintains that he wants to set Oscar straight.... (full context)
Working-Class Disillusionment Theme Icon
Relationships, Status, and Resentment Theme Icon
Economic Strain and Race Relations Theme Icon
...a chaotic fight ensues. Chris tries to break it up, but Oscar headbutts him, and Tracey and Jessie continue egging the situation on. Now angry, Chris puts Oscar in a headlock... (full context)