This study will examine August Wilson's play Joe Turner's Come and Gone, focusing on the characters' search for their "song." The play offers a number of definitions of what this "song" is, but it is roughly equivalent to one's individual spirit or purpose in life. The study will consider in greater depth what this song is, its significance, which characters have found theirs, which are still searching, and which will probably never find it. The thesis of the study will be that those who have found their songs have come to a state of acceptance about life and its difficulties, and have as a result discovered within themselves what the others are seeking in vain outside themselves. Those who have not found their songs are still doing battle with life, with people, and with themselves. The significance of the song, then, is found in the fact that the individual must discover his or hers in order to be an authentic human being and in order to have any chance for love and happiness in the world.
Wilson in his introduction to the play tells us that the finding of one's song is an individual process which has to do with one's reclamation of his or her identity:
From the deep and near South the sons and daughters of newly freed slaves wander into the city. Isolated, cut off from memory, having forgotten the names of the gods and only guessing at their faces, they arrive dazed and stunned, their heart kicking in their chest with a song worth singing. . . . They search for ways to reconnect,
. . . to give clear and luminous meaning to the song which is both a wail and a whelp of joy (Wilson i).
The play focuses on a number of characters rather than one protagonist. In a sense, these characters in aggregate can be seen as a spiritual protagonist---the soul of black Americans struggling to regain their dignity, their identity, their individuality.
The character most disenfranchised from his soul seems to be Herald Loomis, k...