Joe Turner's Come and Gone Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 61 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
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Mattie Campbell

Mattie Campbell is one of Seth's tenants, who wants nothing more than to get married and have children, and who chases Herald at the end of the play. When she first comes to Seth's boardinghouse, Mattie, a twenty-six-year old woman, is seeking out Bynum's help. She is hoping the conjurer can bind her old boyfriend, Jack Carper, to her so that he will not leave again. Mattie had two babies with Carper, but they both died and he thinks she is cursed. However, Bynum says that she and Carper are not meant to be together. Although Mattie is desperate and ends up living with Jeremy, he leaves her, too. At the end of the play, Mattie realizes that she and Herald would make a good match and rushes to catch up with him when he leaves.

Jeremy Furlow

Jeremy Furlow is one of Seth's tenants, who ends up with Molly. Jeremy is a young, impulsive man in his twenties who does not want to be tied down to a needy woman or a place. Jeremy is illegally held in jail by the local police when they are on the lookout for stray black men from whom to extort money. Although he works on a road crew for a while, Jeremy gets fired when he refuses to pay an employment fee to one of the white men. He would rather earn money by gambling and playing his guitar in contests. Although he stays with Mattie for a little while, Molly attracts him, and he ends up leaving Mattie to travel around the country with Molly.

Seth Holly

Seth Holly is Bertha's husband and the owner of the Pittsburgh boardinghouse where the play is set. Unlike his open-minded wife, Seth is a suspicious man, and is constantly on the lookout for anything that could make his boardinghouse seem less than respectable. When he hears that Jeremy has been arrested for drinking, he is quick to confront him. When Herald causes a disturbance during a Sunday night juba dance, Seth threatens to throw him out the next morning. Seth was born a free black man and cannot understand and does not sympathize with the many Southern blacks who have wandered up to the American north following the abolition of slavery. Seth inherited the boardinghouse from his father, who also taught Seth how to be a tinsmith. In addition to his night job at a steel mill, Seth buys sheet metal from Selig, a white peddler, and then makes items out of the metal, selling them back to Selig. Since Selig provides the materials and sells the items, he makes a bigger profit than Seth does. Seth knows this, and would like to go into business for himself, but nobody will give him a loan unless he signs over his boardinghouse. As the boardinghouse is his only security, Seth refuses to do this.

Seth is initially suspicious of Bynum, the African root worker, who kills pigeons in Seth's yard for his African rituals. Seth notes that Bynum is like many other Southern blacks, who wander on the road most of their life before finally settling down like Bynum has. As much as he does not understand or accept Bynum's conjuring, however, when Herald first arrives at the boardinghouse, Seth likes him even less. Although Seth knows Martha Pentecost, Herald's wife, he chooses not to tell Herald where Martha is because he does not believe that Herald could be married to a respectable woman like Martha. At one point, Seth thinks that Herald might be a church thief since somebody spots Seth hanging around an old church but refusing to go inside. While Seth keeps tabs on Herald, he tells Bertha that he does not like to get involved in other people's business, and so will not tell Martha where Herald is, even though he knows that Martha is looking for Zonia. Even after Herald and his daughter have left and are standing on the street corner, Seth keeps a suspicious eye on him.

Martha Loomis

Martha Loomis is Herald's wife, who has been separated from him for eleven years since Herald was illegally enslaved by Joe Turner. When Herald was captured, Martha was unable to work their Tennessee farm by herself and was evicted by their landlord. After she and Zonia lived at Martha's mother's house for five years, Martha assumed that Herald was dead and moved on with her life. Martha moves north to avoid racial persecution, and leaves Zonia behind at her mother's house, intending to pick her up in a few months. However, Herald is released while Martha is up north, and Herald goes to pick up Zonia. Herald and Zonia search for Martha, while Martha searches for Zonia. Martha stays at Seth's boardinghouse briefly where Bynum binds Zonia to Martha, so that they can find each other someday. By the time Martha and Herald reunite, her name has changed to Martha Pentecost. She has also gotten more involved in religion, and tries unsuccessfully to convince Herald to look to Jesus Christ for his salvation. At the end of the play, Zonia goes to live with Martha.

Martha Pentecost

See Martha Loomis

Rutherford Selig

Rutherford Selig is a white peddler and people finder who finds Martha Loomis and brings her to Herald. Selig is the only white character in the play. He stops by the boardinghouse every Saturday to sell sheet metal to Seth and put in orders for the items that he needs made out of the metal. Since Selig makes a profit on both the sheet metal and the items that he buys from Seth, he makes more money than Seth does. In addition to his peddling, Selig is a people finder, who charges one dollar to find somebody. As he lets the others know, his family has been finding people for a long time, first as slave transporters, then as slave bounty hunters, and now, after the slaves have been freed, as a lost-person service—helping reunite families. Selig writes down the names of every one of his customers, and he cross-references this list when he is hired to search for a specific person. However, Bertha believes that Selig can only "find" people who have previously hitched a ride on his peddling cart. Despite this fact, Herald is confident that Selig will find his wife, Martha, and Selig does.

This section contains 2,207 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
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Joe Turner's Come and Gone from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.