The Emperor Jones

by

Eugene O’Neill

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The Emperor Jones: Scene 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Two hours later, Jones' pleading is audible as he approaches a clearing. The clearing isn't a true clearing; vines form a low, arched ceiling, and the moonlight can barely filter through. Jones asks God what he'll do now, since he only has his silver bullet left, and he needs to save that for luck. He remarks that it's very dark, and wonders if the night will ever end. Cautiously, Jones feels his way forward and decides that he absolutely must rest. As he enters the clearing, he flings himself facedown on the ground. His pants are so torn and tattered that they're little more than a loincloth.
In a physical sense, Jones is very human at this point: his body is exposed and exhausted, and he no longer has the uniform or his palace to signal to others that he's powerful and superhuman. Jones is also aware that the silver bullet is his final connection to the sense of godliness he created during his rule. The darkness of this clearing again mirrors how Jones must confront his humanity and his inner demons now that he can't physically see anything else.
Themes
Power and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Godliness, Humanity, and Fear Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The moonlight seems to brighten incrementally, and two rows of shadowy figures come into view. They sit along either side of the long, narrow clearing, their backs to the trees. They're all black and wear nothing but loincloths. Slowly, they begin to sway, making it appear as though they're swaying with the rolling of the sea from inside a ship. They begin to murmur in unison and the sound grows until it becomes a wail. The wail rises and falls rhythmically, guided by the tom-tom.
By immersing Jones in a slave ship, the play makes it clear that Jones is undergoing a journey and a transformation that he had no desire to take on. Like the slaves, this journey through the woods is one that is dehumanizing to Jones, as it strips away anything that previously made him powerful or important.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
History and Collective Memory Theme Icon
Power and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Godliness, Humanity, and Fear Theme Icon
Jones startles and looks up. When he notices the figures, he buries his face in the ground. As the next wail rises, Jones adds his voice to the sound. He sits like the other men and follows their swaying motion as he cries with them. As the lights and the voices fade, Jones scrambles away, his cry petering out as he runs. The tom-tom quickens again, and seems almost triumphant.
When Jones joins in with the slaves, it suggests that being in this kind of a situation is something that's part of the collective memory of African Americans with slave ancestors. Jones has no choice but to participate; it's a part of his subconscious self, and he cannot ignore it anymore.
Themes
Racism Theme Icon
History and Collective Memory Theme Icon