August Wilson’s Joe Turner Come and Gone is a play primarily about African Americans in search of their cultural identity following the repression of American slavery. For Loomis, being enslaved and dealing with negative scenarios during and after his escape from Joe Turner, not only caused him a loss of identity, but it also affected his personal confidence and the psychological aspect of his thoughts. Consequential lack of self-confidence and faith within oneself. However, being around positive people and situations is important aspect for one to rediscover their self which Loomis is able to accomplish with the help of Bynum.
Herald Loomis lost his self after being enslaved for seven years. Periodically, Loomis begins to lose his mind. Loomis and his daughter who are in search for his wife Martha reach the boarding house with Bynum and several other characters living in it. “Sixty - something Bynum is a border who is known to the other characters to be root worker/ conjure man, also known as medicine man, have the ability to tap into the force of spirits. This is an ability that allows Bynum to help various characters throughout the course of the play" (Shannon, Williams pg.161). Loomis is one of the individuals Bynum helps find his identity as well as inner peace that Loomis lacks. Unsure of the reason being a slave of Joe Turner is one of many unanswered questions Loomis is not aware of. Talking to Bynum in search of his wife Martha, Loomis states, "why he got to catch me going down the road by my lonesome? He told me I was worthless. Worthless is something you throw away. Something you don’t bother with. I ain't see him throw me away. Wouldn't even let me stay away when I was by my lonesome. I ain't tried to catch him when he was going down the road. So I must got something he want. What I got?" (Wilson, pg. 73) Loomis is mentally disturbed and is looking for answer he believes his wife will help him find. Though he states he isn’t worthless, Joe Turners words have made a strong impact on him who psychologically play role in his life and self-confidence.
In his mind he is not aware of his loss. Psychologically, Loomis believes finding his wife Martha will give him a clear vision of who he was and will accompany him to start his life once again. Loomis is convinced that his wife Martha is the answer to his questions. In a conversation with Bynum, he states, "That's the only thing I know to do. I just want to see her face so I can get me a starting place in the world. The world got to start somewhere. That's what I been looking for. I've been wandering a long time in somebody else's world. When I find my wife that be the making of my own." (Wilson pg. 72) Loomis is in denial. Being in search of his wife is one way he can escape and overlook reality, and the pain he feels as an African slave. He is convinced his wife will help him find his place in the world and has his daughter Zonia believed the same. Bynum is one of the positive people Loomis comes in contact with after being enslaved. He understands what Loomis is in search of and does his best to slowly help him realize he does not need his wife to find himself. He answers Loomis’s questions about being taken away by Joe Turner in a unique way. One that Loomis never thought of before. Bynum answers "He thought by catching you he could learn that song. Every nigger he catch he's looking for the one he can learn that song from. Now he's got you bound up to where you can't sing your own song. Couldn't sing it them seven years 'cause you was afraid he would snatch it from under you. But you still got it. You just forgot how to sing it. (Wilson pg. 73) Bynum introduces the idea of the song being his identity for the first time. An additional element that affected Loomis is him witnessing bones rise and fall back down in the ocean. This is important factor in Loomis life. He says “I come to this place…to this water that was bigger than the whole world. And I...
Cited: 1. Sandra Shannon and Dana Williams. August Wilson and Black Aesthetics. Palgrave
Macmillan. New York, NY 2004.
2. August Wilson. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Penguin Group. Published 1988
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