Joe Turner Come and Gone
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.
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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 looked out… and I seen those bones rise up out the water. Rise up and begin to walk on top of it. ” (Wilson pg. 3) He later realizes the bones in the water represent his ancestors that were thrown overboard while they were in the same situation as him. Loomis is privileged to witness this because it as an important fact that leads him into getting a clearer understanding of who he is. The conversation between Bynum and Loomis helped Loomis gain self-confidence and provided him the ability to start believing in him. He began to say, “The winds going back into my body. I can feel it. I’m starting to breathe again I’m Gonna standup. I got to stand up. I can’t take you no more.
All the breath coming into my body and I got stand up the ground’s starting to shake. There’s a great shaking. The world’s busting half in two. The sky’s splitting open. I got to stand up. My legs… My legs won’t stand up! Got to stand up. Get up on the road My legs won’t stand up! My legs won’t stand up! ” (Wilson pg. 55). However he let his conscious and lack of self-confidence get the best of him and did not allow him to completely trust himself. He talks to Loomis and helps him recognize the real problem. He also becomes aware of the fact that forgetting himself is a result of forgetting how to sing his song.
Furthermore, Bynum says “A fellow forget that and he forgets who he is. Forget how he’s supposed to markdown life (Wilson pg. 73). For once, Loomis becomes aware of one truth he has been overseeing. In Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, the Juba dance is a symbolic ritual. Bynum along with other members in the boarding house perform the dance. It is a way for the characters to reconnect themselves with their past through music and rituals. The African spirits symbolically are African ancestors that enter the Holly boarding house because they were called by the characters engaged in the Juba.
Loomis however does not take part of the group celebration duality even though he himself is a man split into two and still unaware of his identity. “Loomis also reveals the changing place of Christianity in the lives of former slaves and the progeny of slaves. ” (Shannon, Williams pg. 165). The reunion of spirits and members of the boarding house provides them with the proper future of their riotous history as they discover their true origins not only in the plantations in slavery, but in the varied cultures of Africa.
The Juba allows them to learn their real identities to be an “African, not Christian, though this African-ness is transfigured with multiple images drawn from a Christianity in which they may find truth and affirmation of their deepest beliefs. ” (Shanna, Williams pg. 163). Loomis however, is out of rhythm and harmony with other human beings. This clearly demonstrates the fact that he would not be able to partake in an activity that bring the characters together. However, it is at that time the Juba triggers Loomis’s rage, which leads him to have a connection with his forbearers.
Bynum also uses the Joe Turner song in Act two to help Loomis realize his identity crisis “They tell me Joe Turner’s come and gone Ohhh Lordy They tell me Joe Turners come and Gone Ohhh Lordy Got my man and gone Come with forty links of chain Ohhh Lordy Come with forty links of chain Ohhh Lordy Got my man and gone” (Wilson pg. 67). Though Loomis does not like Bynum singing the song over and over again, essentially Bynum tells Loomis all he has to do to solve his identity dilemma is to sing his song. Still Loomis believes he needs his wife Martha to find himself.
He still does not trust nor recognize the fact that he is dealing with a battle internally within himself over his identity in which he has placed Martha on one side, and Bynum and Africa on the other. Gradually, Bynum learns of the insecurities Loomis has created within himself and helps Loomis deal with it one after the other. Towards the end of the play Martha and Loomis come into contact with one another. Leading him to realize the fact Bynum has been trying to help him realize all along. Loomis realizes it is not Martha who he needs; he learns his journey is within himself.
While conversing with Martha he says “…All the time that goodbye swelling up in my chest till I’m about to bust. Now I see your face I can say my goodbye and make my own world. ” (Wilson pg. 90). He finally learns to stand a stand for him and let’s go of all negative thoughts and memories he has kept with him. In one of his last conversations with Bynum, Loomis states, “Everywhere I go people wanna bind me up. Joe Turner wanna bind me up! Reverend Toliver wanna bind me up. You wanna bind me up. Well Joe Turner come and gone and Herald Loomis ain’t for no binding.
I ain’t gonna let nobody bind me up! ” (Wilson pg. 91). Loomis finally has reached the place Bynum wanted him to be at. He is confident and understands his obligation. For the last time, Bynum gives Loomis the push he needs to find the man he had within him all along. He says “It wasn’t you. Herald Loomis. I aint bound you. I bound the little girl to her mother. That’s who I bound. You binding yourself. You bound onto your song. All you got to do is stand up and sing it, Herald Loomis. It’s right there kicking at your throat. All you got to do is sing it.