Analysis Of Joe Turner 's Come And Gone

1190 WordsNov 18, 20165 Pages
Nothing takes away the dignity and self-respect of individuals like stripping them of their human characteristics and viewing them as property instead of people. The quickest way to make someone lose his or her direction in life is to destroy the identity he or she worked hard to forge. Through his use of symbolism and indirect characterization, August Wilson establishes his theme that finding and maintaining one’s identity is important in life. The title Joe Turner’s Come and Gone refers to Joe Turney, the brother of former Tennessee Governor Peter Turney. In the late 19th Century, Joe Turney was responsible for transporting black prisoners from Memphis to the Tennessee State Penitentiary, located in Nashville. However, he would often…show more content…
‘Cause you forgot how to sing your song” (II, ii, 68). According to Bynum, an individual’s song is synonymous with his or her identity. This is seen on a historical level, when one considers the detrimental impact Joe Turner’s chain gangs had on individuals: he broke each member until they had all forgotten who they were. The loss of individual identity may allude to the fact that members of a chain gang had to work together because they were chained together; they were no longer viewed as individuals but were considered a unit. When viewed as a symbol for oppression, Joe Turner exceeds chain gangs and is found in every level of the lives of African-Americans; he is the reason men like Seth are unable to further their businesses, he is the reason police officers abuse their power and arrest innocent black men like Jeremy, and he is the reason families like the Loomis’ fall apart. On a metaphorical level, the loss of identity could refer to the loss of one’s self in the sense of the values one holds dear. Regardless of the dimension in which the loss of individuality is viewed, the central message remains the same: Joe Turner (oppression and the historical figure) preys on the identity of African-Americans and works hard to destroy it. Besides symbolism, Wilson uses indirect characterization to describe the different generations that are present in the play and show how each generation struggles to find and
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