Joe Turner's Come and Gone - Act 1, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

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This section contains 517 words
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Act 1, Scene 2 Summary

As the scene opens, it is the following Saturday morning and Bertha and Seth are once again in the kitchen; Bertha is cooking while Seth talks about his reservations about Herald Loomis. Apparently Herald has been acting suspiciously, such as standing outside a church and just staring for long periods of time. Seth knows the woman named Martha Pentecost and finds it hard to believe that she would be the Martha for whom Herald is searching.

Bynum passes through the kitchen and heads upstairs, and Seth makes disparaging remarks to Bertha about the old man's weird habits. Seth then returns to the topic of Martha Pentecost who has migrated from the South, become established with a local church, and then moved with that church to Rankin, one of the river towns along the Monongahela. Although this information could be helpful to Herald, Seth does not want to get involved.

Bynum returns to the kitchen and informs Bertha and Seth that Herald intends to ask Selig for help in locating Martha. Just at that moment, Selig arrives for his weekly visit to the boardinghouse. Herald enters the room and enlists Selig's help in finding Martha and provides a description of the woman. Selig accepts Herald's dollar and agrees to help locate the woman. Selig prides himself on his people finding abilities, a business in which Selig's family has engaged for many years, such as having tracked down slaves for plantation owners, and then looking for displaced relatives of former slaves after the war.

Bertha, who is quiet throughout the negotiation, informs Herald that he has wasted a dollar after Selig leaves the house.

Act 1, Scene 2 Analysis

It is important to note Seth's behavior in contrast to the other black characters. Having been born and raised in the North, Seth has always enjoyed freedom and does not know the fear of enslavement or the devastating loss of family and sense of identity. It is this difference in experience which distances Seth from the other black men and Seth cannot relate to them. Seth does not understand Bynum's rituals which are a way for the old man to find himself and help others. Seth thinks Bynum's voodoo ways are ridiculous and inconsequential. Likewise, Seth does not think highly of Herald Loomis with his desperate behaviors, but Seth has never experienced the despair and longing which plague Herald; the chasm between the characters will continue to exist. Seth does not want any part of the lives that cross the threshold of his boardinghouse perhaps because they remind him of how close he came to being one of the wanderers himself.

While Seth is a passive thwart to reconnecting people, Selig represents the destruction and devastation of black families. Selig's family business of tracking down runaway slaves is ironically continued through Selig, who finds people who may not want to be found. Bertha makes the remark that Selig doesn't find anybody that he hasn't already taken away, meaning that Selig's ancestors took blacks away from Africa to be sold into slavery and then Selig's own father tracked down slaves who ran away.

This section contains 517 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Drama for Students
Joe Turner's Come and Gone from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.