Summary and Analysis: Act II, Scenes 4-5

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1529

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Martha Loomis/Pentecost: Herald Loomis’ lost wife and an active member of the local Evangelist church in Rankin

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Reuben and Zonia are playing in the yard early the next morning as the fourth scene opens. Both of them feel that something spooky has been happening lately around the boardinghouse. Reuben tells Zonia that he saw the ghost of Seth’s mother, Miss Mabel. Zonia wonders aloud what being dead feels like and whether the dead might ever come back. She expresses the certainty that her mother is still alive, in spite of Reuben’s skepticism. Zonia tells Reuben that she and her father will be leaving the Hollys’ boardinghouse on Saturday. To hide his disappointment, Reuben begins to tease Zonia, and then he informs her that he will marry her when he grows up. Zonia lets Reuben kiss her, and he tells her that she is his girl and that when he grows up, he will come looking for her.

The play's final scene opens up on Saturday morning with Bynum, Herald, and Zonia sitting at the kitchen table. Bertha tells Zonia to eat her breakfast, and she kindly suggests to Herald that he try finding a room at a nearby boardinghouse. Mattie enters the kitchen and asks Herald if he’s leaving and where he’s going to. Herald noncommittally tells her that he and Zonia will go wherever the road takes them. Mattie mentions that Herald’s wife might have found someone new, that such things tend to happen when two people are separated from each other for a length of time like eleven years. Somewhat put off, Herald calls to Zonia that they are leaving. Mattie attempts to prevent their leave-taking by offering Zonia a ribbon for her hair. She tells Herald again that she hopes he finds his wife and that she hopes he will be happy. Herald softens a little, and he tells Mattie that a man would be lucky to find her and that she should keep a good heart. Then he leaves the boardinghouse with his daughter. Bertha expresses her astonishment at the gentleness with which Herald has just bid farewell to Mattie, telling Mattie that all that man needs is someone to laugh with and to love. As if to model what she is saying, Bertha breaks out in laughter, and Mattie joins in. Seth comes in at that moment and observes that everyone seems in good spirits. He says that Herald is standing outside the boardinghouse staring up at it in his odd way.

Surprisingly, Martha Loomis/Pentecost knocks on the door and enters the room, followed by Rutherford Selig. Selig triumphantly explains how he found Martha in Rankin. Martha has come to the Hollys’ boardinghouse to see her little girl. The door opens, and Herald and Zonia re-enter. Herald accuses Martha of not waiting for him to come back to her. Martha defends herself by accounting for the past eleven years of her life. When Joe Turner took her husband, her life was shattered. She couldn’t work the land she had shared with Herald by herself, and she was kicked off the land and had no place to go but to her mother’s. She waited there for five years and concluded that Herald might never come back and that he might even be dead. Martha decided to make her life without her husband, and she mourned him as if he was dead. When her church moved up North, she left her daughter with her mother so that Zonia would be safe. Martha was only two months behind Herald when he was finally let loose from Joe Turner’s chain gang and retrieved his daughter. She explains that since then, she has been looking for Herald just as he has been looking for her. Herald tells Martha that now he can say his goodbye to her, and he can go make his own world. He relinquishes Zonia to her mother, telling Zonia to be a good girl and love and obey her mother. He tells Zonia that he loves her and will never forget her. Zonia...

(The entire section contains 1529 words.)

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Summary and Analysis: Act II, Scenes 1-3