(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

One Saturday morning, Seth Holly is sitting in the kitchen looking out at Bynum, who is performing a ritual of sacrificing pigeons. After Bynum enters the house, so does Rutherford Selig. Bynum asks Selig if he has found the Shiny Man; then, Bynum relates his story of having met a Shiny Man who shared with him the secret of life and of his deceased father, who appeared and showed him how to find his song.

After Selig leaves, four people enter in quick succession: Jeremy, a boarder who has been jailed overnight for vagrancy; Herald Loomis and his daughter, who are seeking a room; and Mattie Campbell, who is looking for Bynum. Each is also searching for something else: Jeremy is looking for a woman to spend time with, Loomis is searching for his wife Martha, and Mattie desires Bynum’s assistance so that her man, Jack Carper, will return to her. Bynum tells Loomis that he needs to see Selig, the People Finder; he tells Martha that Jack is not bound to her because their babies died and that someone else is searching for her. Jeremy approaches Mattie, and they decide to spend time together.

Outside, Zonia plays and sings. She meets Reuben and tells him that she and her father are searching for her mother. Reuben tells Zonia that Bynum is a conjure man who buys pigeons from him. The pigeons once belonged to Reuben’s friend Eugene, whose dying request was that Reuben set the pigeons free.

The following Saturday morning, Seth talks to his wife about his discomfort with Loomis. Their discussion turns toward Martha Pentecost, a former tenant who is probably Martha Loomis. When Selig returns, Loomis gives him money to find Martha Loomis. Bertha tells Loomis that he has wasted his money, for Selig is not really a people finder; he only finds those whom he himself has taken away.

The next morning, after Jeremy informs Seth that Mattie is going to move in with him, Bynum tries to explain to Jeremy the value of a woman in a man’s life. Molly Cunningham comes by the boardinghouse, seeking a room. Jeremy is immediately attracted to her; as a result, he thinks he understands what Bynum has been saying.

That Sunday evening, as all of the boardinghouse residents are present except Loomis, Seth suggests that they dance the juba, an...

(The entire section is 929 words.)