Joe Turner's Come and Gone - Study Guide Act 2, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

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Act 2, Scene 4 Summary

The next day is Saturday and Reuben and Zonia are outside the boardinghouse, where Reuben shares the disturbing events of the night before; he heard Bynum's moans and incantations and he also witnessed the unnerving sight of Miss Mabel, Seth's dead mother. Miss Mabel wants Reuben to release the pigeons which had belonged to Reuben's now dead friend, Eugene, whom Reuben sorely misses. Reuben hates to lose another friend, but he realizes that Zonia too will be leaving with her father today to resume the search for Martha.

Bertha suggests another boardinghouse to Herald and offers breakfast to him and Zonia before they leave. Mattie offers up the idea that Martha may be involved with another man since it has been eleven years since Herald has seen Martha. Mattie hates to see Herald and Zonia leave, and she gives Zonia a ribbon for her hair as a memento. Mattie wishes Herald good luck in finding his wife, and Herald tells Mattie that any man would be lucky to find Mattie and make her his own.

Soon after Herald leaves, Selig arrives for his weekly visit; he is accompanied by Martha Pentecost, whom he has found in Rankin. Martha is anxious to see Zonia, and suddenly Herald and Zonia return. Herald accosts Martha for not waiting for him to return when he was taken by Joe Turner's gang. Martha tries to explain her actions, stating that she could not maintain the farm after Herald was gone and consequently lost their sharecropping rights, and was then forced to move in with her mother.

Martha waited at her mother's home for five years, but no word from Herald prompted Martha to believe that Herald was probably dead. Martha decided to move North and left Zonia with her mother until she was able to establish a life for the two of them. Martha had no way of knowing that Herald would show up only two months after she had gone away. Martha has been looking for Herald and Zonia since this time.

Now that Herald has seen Martha's face, he can relinquish his obsession over her and begin to live his life again. Herald releases Zonia to Martha because the girl needs her mother's influence in her life so that she will not grow up unbalanced. Zonia hesitates to go to, but Herald tells the girl that he will always love her and that it is time for her to be with her mother.

Years of frustration and rage release from Herald, who turns on Bynum and accuses the old man of binding Herald to the road. However, Bynum's powers have bound only Martha and Zonia. Herald refuses to be bound anymore in his life and pulls a knife, prompting Bynum to urge Herald to stand and sing his own song again. Martha urgently suggest Herald seek comfort in Jesus, but Herald rejects the religion and slashes his own chest, claiming that he will bleed for himself.

Suddenly Herald realizes that he is literally standing on his own two feet again and has the confidence to face the world unencumbered. Herald tells Martha goodbye and leaves with Mattie running after him. Bynum realizes in moment of clarity that Herald is the new "shiny man" for whom Bynum has been searching and yells after Herald, claiming that Herald is shining like new money.

Act 2, Scene 4 Analysis

Herald has instinctively known that he must see Martha's face in order to begin his life anew and his catharsis is almost instantaneous when he does encounter her. Symbolically speaking, Martha has changed her last name from Loomis to Pentecost, which is the religious occasion for the visit of the Holy Spirit where courage and fortitude are passed on. Herald receives his new life; interestingly enough, he claims he will "bleed for himself," a reference to Jesus Christ, and therefore a reference to Christianity. His previous malcontent with Christianity is gone and he now references it in his own rebirth. He is finally a man free from all the haunts of his past; the threat of slavery, Joe Turner's gang, and the search for Martha.

This section contains 695 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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