August Wilson

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August Wilson, born Fredrick August Kittel Jr., was one of the most prominent and influential American playwrights of all time. Raised as a native of Pittsburgh, Wilson allowed the world around him to directly inspire his work. As a result the Pittsburgh cycle, a ten play arrangement, was written to showcase each decade during the twentieth century. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, set in 1911, is the second installment of the cycle. The Joe Turner character took on several personifications in African American storytelling. “Tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone Ohhh Lordy They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone Ohhh Lordy Got my man and gone He come with forty links of chain Ohhh Lordy” This essay will explore August Wilson’s use of Joe Turner’s character as a folkloric representation of the lasting and damaging effects of slavery. Folk lore is a tradition in the African American culture that often includes song, oral history, proverbs, fables, and popular belief. It also serves as the communication of wisdom from one generation to the next using the different mediums. It is critical to understand folklore as a cultural necessity because it gives an unparalleled amount of insight into the history of African culture. During the reconstruction era literacy amongst black people was not high, however, that placed no limits on their vase interpretation of the world around them. In fact, it made way for figurative elaborations that at times included several perspectives as well as different meanings. Although folklore is historically noted for being passed around orally, it took the written form in the works of Zora Neal Hurston, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and August Wilson Himself. Folklore manifests itself in African American literature in the form of three classic characters: Tricksters, Badmen, and Midwives. First, the trickster is someone who uses his wit for a self-serving purpose. Although the trickster is not limited to the work of African Americans, he can take both...
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