Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Jitney by August Wilson examines the individual lives of characters in a jitney station in Pittsburgh. Through their individual stories—that often interact or interlink with the other characters—the audience is given an intimate view of the Pittsburgh working-class. The play also offers nuanced commentary on the Vietnam and Korean wars, particularly the effects of war on African American veterans.

The play's various character profiles and sub-plots are glued together by the theme of relationships. The play examines the the tumultuous relationship between father and son; husband and wife; black and white Americans; and the relationships between the jitney station regulars.

The lives and dynamics between the people of the jitney station can be seen as a microcosm of American society as a whole during that time period. The brilliance of the play is that the setting is hyper-local, yet the characters and the lessons they learn in life are universal.

For instance, there is a recurring theme of redemption in the play's sub-plots. The husband who is accused of cheating by his wife—due to the station drunkard's insinuations—had a history of infidelity, so it was easy for his wife to distrust his professions of innocence. However, the truth is revealed that he had been saving money to surprise her with a house, and was indeed a changed man.

Likewise, the son of the jitney station operator, who was incarcerated for murdering his white girlfriend in college because she falsely accused him of rape, had to fight hard to regain his father's trust and respect. When the father died, the son took over the jitney station's operations, thus completing a full circle of generational bond.

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