Refer to the card game scene involving Winston, Alonzo, and Wayne in Act One, scene one of Jacob's Wake by Michael Cook. What does this scene reveal about the three characters, especially in terms...

Refer to the card game scene involving Winston, Alonzo, and Wayne in Act One, scene one of Jacob's Wake by Michael Cook. What does this scene reveal about the three characters, especially in terms of establishing the play's themes?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Michael Cook's Jacob's Wake, the card scene in Act One, scene one, tells us that the men in this family are divided. And while they understand each other well enough, there is little (if any) love between them and no true sense of trust. Their dysfunction is a central theme to the story—it runs deep, includes everyone (in some way), and it will, ultimately be what destroys them. Ironically, in the face of the disaster that befalls them, at the final moment they join together in death, as they never could in life.

As the game begins, Alonzo comments disparagingly about Wayne, indicating the value system he and Winston seem to share:

I blames Aunt Mary for Wayne, father. Shoving all them books and morals into his head when he were young. Unhealthy, I says.

Wayne says that in his job with the government, he has been able to provide financial help to them all in one way or another. It would seem Wayne has a loyalty to family—coming back home, as Winston notes, nearly every year to visit.

However, stage direction indicates that Wayne knows the other two much too well to trust them even in a harmless card game:

All three examine their cards, WAYNE in particular making sure that no one can catch a glimpse of his hand.

Winston belittles Wayne's success, noting that he would never exchange his "peace of mind" (drinking and long-standing unemployment) to pursue a high-ranking (and high-paying) position. However, there is no complaint about the money or business Wayne sends their way. Alonzo, as Wayne sees it, is not much better than Winston—in terms of taking the moral high road. He tells Alonzo:

If you want to live by selling watered booze and importing prostitutes as strippers you're welcome to it.

Alonzo throws out another insult, inferring perhaps that he believes Wayne sells his vote for money.

...There's more than one way of prostitution...

As the conversation continues, Winston attacks Wayne's manhood by discussing "his bird," its size and the day of his circumcision. Stage direction shows that Winston knows how to hurt his son. Wayne is "rattled." Winston ignores his son's discomfort and continues with his tale, throwing out private (and untrue) details as causally as he would cards on the table. He even insults his sister, Mary, (who basically raised Wayne) in the process.

The proprieties slip away and Wayne challenges his father:

Can't you ever get your mind out of the gutter, father?

However, in the next instant, it is clear that Alonzo has been cheating. Wayne becomes furious, but Alonzo ignores him, instead asking his father to finish his distasteful tale. In doing so, Winston attempts to emasculate Wayne—seemingly the only successful one among them (though we learn later that Wayne is more like these men than we might think here).

Wayne pulls out a pile of trump cards from Alonzo's pocket, but his brother laugh hysterically at the story, demanding more information, and pushing Wayne to the end of his tolerance. Wayne announces that he will no longer send contracts along to Alonzo through his government connections.

By now, Winston's details have become insulting lies and Wayne begins shouting.

While Wayne has seemingly left his life with his family behind, he is as connected to them as ever. Alonzo tells Rosie at the end of the scene that it was a "friendly game...Jest like the old days." One can assume the old days were never good, and things haven't changed.

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