Joe Turner's Come and Gone - Act 1, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

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Act 1, Scene 3 Summary

This scene takes place on the next day and Bertha and Seth prepare to go to church. Seth is disgruntled because of his inability to persuade some of the area's businessmen to support his start-up metal working business. Bertha is impatient with Seth's whining and encourages Seth to hurry so they can get to the Sunday service.

Jeremy comes downstairs and shows off the dollar he won at a guitar contest at a club the night before. He then asks if he may invite Mattie to Sunday dinner, and ultimately inquires if Mattie may move in with him. Seth agrees but tells Jeremy that his rent will increase and Jeremy agrees to pay. Bynum is drawn into the conversation and tries to give Jeremy advice on women; Bynum tells Jeremy he needs to be mindful of with whom he chooses to associate.

According to Bynum, a man cannot indiscriminately pick a woman off the streets and take her home with him. Looking at a woman is like viewing a whole way of life, and if a man chooses the right woman, she will be like water and berries: everything a man could ever want or need to live. Bynum counsels Jeremy to look at the complete person when looking at a woman, not merely the anticipation of physical pleasure.

Bynum's words go unheeded by Jeremy, who is distracted by the sight of a young woman named Molly Cunningham at the boardinghouse door. Molly has missed her train to Cincinnati and needs a place to stay until she can catch the next train. Seth offers Molly a room and the young woman tells Seth that she likes to have company, a fact which unnerves Seth. Seth then tells Molly that the boardinghouse is a respectable establishment and he cannot allow any offensive behavior.

Molly agrees to Seth's terms and leaves to find her room, unaware that Jeremy has watched the encounter. Jeremy is quite taken with the newcomer and tells Bynum that he now knows what the old man had been saying about looking at a woman as a person who can change one's whole life.

Act 1, Scene 3 Analysis

The old conjure man, Bynum, symbolizes the need for black people to find their family ties and some security. Bynum attempts to advise Jeremy about choosing a woman for the right reasons in an attempt to stave off the short encounters which plague not only the young black men but also the black women who have been separated from their families. According to Bynum, the only way to stop the frantic behavior and begin to bind people together again is to join with another for proper and long-term reasons.

Jeremy and Molly symbolize the instability and restlessness which still exist for black people in the early 20th century. Although the Civil War has long been over, the residual prejudices and practices force young black people to be always on the move so as not to be detained in any form. Ironically, it is this very restlessness which perpetuates the constant migration and lack of establishment of solid family structures which are the goals of the wandering.

Mattie inherently knows her objective to settle and begin to establish roots, but Jeremy is too restless to meet her needs and is turned by the appearance of Molly at the boardinghouse. It is not only Jeremy's youth which drives his disloyalty but the fact that he has lived a day-to-day existence and the road is always beckoning.

It is important to note that although Seth is a free man and grew up in the North, he still suffers the pangs of racial prejudice as evidenced by the white businessmen who will not fund the business Seth wants to start. Seth wants to be perceived as different from the other black men who have migrated from the South but is perilously close to their own predicament, in spite of his own heritage of freedom.

This section contains 655 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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