Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The play concerns the African American struggle for prosperity and security in a tenuous social climate. King’s desire to make his own source of income and achieve a kind of nobility is akin to that of many characters in Wilson’s plays. The yard is a source of hope and potential for King, who believes in its ability to grow the seeds that he has planted, although others think it is infertile. Family bonds and relationships are tested in the midst of the struggle for social stability, and the past plays an active role in the present. Indeed, the plot shifts on a revelation of parentage, and the question of whether to have children is a source of crisis for King and Tonya. Stool Pigeon’s mystical ramblings provide the most spiritual portions of the play, including references to a coming apocalypse and to the mysterious Aunt Ester’s connection to the characters and community. Stool Pigeon chooses to relay each character’s history through metaphor and prophecy.