An Analysis of the Character Foil between Herald Loomis and Bynum Walker in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone

August Wilson’s, Joe Turners Come and Gone, was a play composed almost entirely of foils and contrasts The use of polarity and compliment allowed Wilson to write a play which highlighted the range of the black experience- the shadows of the play were made more readily apparent by the intensity of the light, One example of this is found in the character foil between Herald Loomis and Bynum Walker, Although more subtle than most of the other foils, the slight deviations between Bynum and Loomis’ characters highlight the nuances within the journey towards discovering ones identity.

Bynum’s character stands as a necessary root for Herald Loomis’ chaotic search for self- a constant reminder that lunacy can be temporal, and needn’t always be perceived as negative. The character profile of Herald Loomis is particularly interesting because, for the greater part of the play, he is tied to not only one but two characters, Spiritually and mentally he was bound to his wife, Martha Pentecost This Lie gave his character an explicit purpose Physically, however, Loomis is connected with his daughter Zonia Loomis, who functions as a sort of physical manifestation of his wife’s ghost.

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The presence of these anchors adds complexity to Loomis’ character. He is not a man running from the ghosts of his past, rather he is a man who seeks to find his ghost and tackle it head on. It is into this determination that August Wilson writes in his lunacy. “The wind’s blowing breath into my body.

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I can feel it. I’m starting to breathe again… [but] my legs, .. my legs won’t stand up!”. This mental hindrance, the belief that he could not stand up, even though he wanted so badly to move forward is what epitomizes Herald Loomis’ character throughout the play.

In a sense, Loomis is a man on a mission just as characters like Jeremy are Why then does Wilson write his plight for freedom into the crux of his unraveling? I think this is because l-lerald Loomis’ suffering is a part of who he is. instead of being attached to the pain himself, Loomis does not know how to live without the constant ache of suffering. This is demonstrated quite effectively when he slices open his chest to allow his blood to flow, “(Loomis slashes himself across the chest. He rubs the blood over his face and comes to a realization.) I‘m standing! I’m standing My legs stood up! I’m standing now!”. For Loomis the flowing blood is representative of the burden that he has been carrying in his chest and the pain that lingers in the healing process will bring him his redemption In contrast to Loomis we have Bynum’s rhythmic existence, I don‘t think it is by chance that the Shining Man‘s ‘secret to life’ was finding a steady beat by which to live: a song Whereas Loomis feeds off of aching pain, Bynum clings tight to his life rhythms Bynum’s character lingers on the outskirts of Herald’s lunacy, providing a barrier, and a certain amount of serenity. This is exhibited by Seth when he says, “if it wasn’t for Bynum ain’t no telling what would have happened Bynum talked to that fellow just as nice and calmed him down If he wasn’t here ain’t no telling what would have happened”. Seth wasn’t praising Bynum for his normalcy- he was thanking him for his absurdity. Without Bynum’s complimentary presence, Loomis’ character traits would have been uncontrollable it was only through the calming presence of Bynum that Herald was allowed to develop as a character. That being said, Bynum’s character has a much more complicated foundation than Herald Loomis’. The way Wilson writes, it seems that Bynum is completely dependent upon his song for survivali in order to maintain a grasp on his identity he must sing his ‘binding song’, and dance his dance. Of this he tells Herald Loomis, “Now I can look at you, Mr. Loomis, and see you a man who done forgot his song Forgot how to sing it A fellow forget that and he forget who he is”. It‘s made clear throughout the play that Bynum is rooted in his song.

How strong a root this must be, because Bynum‘s character functions as a root for most of the other characters in the play; ironic given the fact that often times he seems to be the one furthest from the ground. In the boardinghouse, Bynum’s melodic rituals have become a part of everyday life. In the beginning of the play when Seth says, “If that ain’t the damndest thing I ever seen… Look at him.,, he still looking He ain’t seen it yet. All that mumbo jumbo nonsense i don’t know whyI put up with it” (1), we see that the absurdities of Bynum’s actions are clear to all who witness them. But, as Bertha is quick to point out, “You don’t say nothing when he bless the house” (2). Thus, we can see that while Bynum is a puzzle, he is a conundrum that brings his peers ultimate comfort Rather than being perceived as a ticking time bomb like Herald Loomis, Bynum is characterized as a bright flame, whose presence is assistance, It is the subtlety of this contrast that makes Herald Loomis’ character dependent on Bynum and vice versa, Loomis represents a tangible toil, despite the fact that he is chasing after an idealt Contrarily, Bynum seems to stand as a man chasing after something intangible, even though he is explicit about what it is he is after. Remarkably, August Wilson seems to imply that one pursuit is more socially acceptable than the other. The lesser of the two evils seems to inevitably be Bynum’s race, That being said, at the conclusion of the play, one can assume that both men finished their race. Of Herald Loomis, Wilson writes that, “Having found his song, the song of self-sufficiency, fully resurrected, cleansed and given breath, free from any encumbrance other than the workings of his own heart… he is free to soar above the environs that weighed and pushed his spirit into terrifying contradictions”. So with the conclusion of the play we see that Herald Loomis is a man who has found himself through the constant ebb and flow of his sorrow and is granted access to the next phase of his existence Comparably, the final words of the play are spoken by Bynum as he cries, “Herald Loomis, you shining! You shining like new money!” which brings the reader to presume that Bynum has completed his purpose, having seen the Shining Man twice, because, “[the Shining Man said] there was lots of shiny men and if I ever saw one again before I died then i would know that my song had been accepted and worked its full power in the world and I could lay down and die a happy man”. By spotlighting the absurdities of Bynum’s character, and highlighting the problematic nature of Herald Loomis‘ pursuit, August Wilson managed to demonstrate to the reader the intricacies of the struggle to find one‘s own identity Understandably, the reader is not presented with one single method of pursuit, Rather, Wilson uses the compatible but ultimately polar journeys of Bynum Walker and Herald Loomis to demonstrate that self»discovery can push you into a pit of insanity that can both be driving, and paralyzing, tempered, and all consuming, positive, and negative.

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An Analysis of the Character Foil between Herald Loomis and Bynum Walker in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. (2022, Jul 19). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/an-analysis-of-the-character-foil-between-herald-loomis-and-bynum-walker-in-august-wilson-s-play-joe-turner-s-come-and-gone-essay

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