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Themes Of Identity In Come And Gone English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1130 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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August Wilson’s, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, is a realistic play about the African American’s experience in the early 1900’s after the abolishment of slavery. The play takes place in the North at a boarding home for traveling African Americans during that time. There is a wide variety of characters in this play of all different ages and races. The characters did not agree on everything, but they all seemed to have at least one thing in common. Each of the characters one way or another were in search of something inside of themselves, whether they knew it or not. The most prominent characters that truly found what they were looking for were Bynum Walker, Jeremy Furlow, and Herald Loomis. You will learn how the characters helped each other find their own personal “songs” and identities that everybody has, but they must be brought out from within.

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Bynum Walker is definitely the most interesting character in the play, but is also the most mysterious. He is a elder black man in his sixties that was freed from slavery in the South and decided to live in the North. Bynum is the character in the play that really brings it all together with his wise, spiritual advice that he seems to give out with no discretion. Bynum emphasizes a “song” that he claims that everybody has, but must be found from within. By “song,” Bynum refers to everybody’s own unique identity and purpose in life. When Bynum speaks about each person’s “song,” it represents our true identity and everybody’s constant search to find themselves. Bynum is known around the neighborhood as the man who fixes things, which is ironic because he is not only a good handy man, but gives people faith and help them find who they really are. He tells a story about a “shiny man” that he once met, that helped show him the “Secret of Life,” and how to truly bring other people’s “song” out of them. The “shiny man” told him that if he ever saw another “shiny man,” it meant that his “song” was accepted and he could die knowing he did his job and left his mark on life. Bynum was a grown man who was comfortable with his identity, but was always trying to help somebody else find theirs. He already knew what his song was, but was only waiting to see if it was accepted.

Jeremy Furlow was the ordinary, young black man of his times. He was in his mid-twenties and represented the first generation of freed slaves. Jeremy was the typical man of that time just working with no true path or meaning, waiting for opportunities to come his way. He was the happy-go-lucky type of guy that always seemed to have a smile on his face. Jeremy played his guitar very well that he brought with him from the South. Despite being free, living in the North, and his great personality, he suffered from racial discrimination just like any other black man during his time. The type of treatment that he had endured made him not care for white people very much and even said that he was scared just walking down the street. As Jeremy puts it, “They got me scared to go out, Mr. Bynum. They might grab me again.” (act 1 scene 1). This just shows how bad it was in that time for a black man. Jeremy represents the struggle that the ordinary black man endured during that era. He was just a young man searching for who he really was and what made him happy. Jeremy talks with Bynum about how all a man needs is a strong woman to love them and to be with them. They also spoke about how desperate women are nothing but trouble for a man and how he needs a strong, independent woman. Jeremy found what he was searching for when Molly Cunningham came to the boarding house to find somewhere to stay. She was a girl Jeremy’s age that was unwilling to let anybody tell her what to do anymore because she had just been freed from the South. The two of them begin to get to know each other and she is exactly what Jeremy has needed and been looking for. Jeremy decided he wanted her to travel with him because there was a purpose for her to come around. She was Jeremy’s “song” and she truly helped him find his identity and his true purpose in life.

Herald Loomis was a strange thirty-two year old black man. He was a Deacon of the church, but was enslaved by Joe Turner for seven years. He was just grabbed off the street and taken from his family for seven years, leaving his wife and newly born daughter behind. Loomis had the ultimate search for his “song” in this play. The day he was released he began searching for his wife and daughter no matter what it took. Herald was a quiet man, but you could tell he was frustrated by his voice and the misfortunate events that he went through in life. It was easy to see that Herald was searching for his family, but he also makes another discovery in the process. You would assume that Herald finding his wife would be his “song” and complete him, but he actually found his “song” when he finally found his wife and she told him that she had moved on. This was not what Herald expected, or wanted to hear, but it was destined to happen and is the event that really brought his “song” out. When his wife told him that she moved on, it freed Herald, so he had no worries. He found his “song” when he heard that and became a fully self-sufficient, resurrected man that was free from any worries but his own. He had really found what he had been searching for, himself. When Herald and the woman that he had taken interest in left the house, Bynum told him that he was shining like new money because Herald had finally found his “song” and identity. This would also mean that Bynum’s “song” had been accepted and that he really made his mark on life because he saw another “shiny man.”

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In closing, I believe this play represents the simple theme of identity and truly finding who you really are. This play demonstrates the constant search for one’s identity that everybody goes through in life. The message is simply that everybody has a purpose and identity in this world, but you must dig deep inside of yourself to find it. The characters in this play represent all of the different types of people in the world and how everybody has their own unique “song.” Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is not a play simply for you to learn about African American’s experiences after the war, but for people of any race or generation to understand that there is a special purpose for them; you just have to go out there and search.


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