Act 2, Scenes 1–3

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on March 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1439

Scene 1

It is October 13, 2008. Reports of government bailouts and the largest gain in the history of the Dow Jones are on the national news, while in local news reports, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of power shutoffs for customers due to unpaid bills.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Sweat Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Jason goes to visit his mother, Tracey, and her tone is unwelcoming. She criticizes his facial tattoos and gives him five dollars. Jason is ungrateful, and Tracey scolds him for calling her “outta the blue” and asking for money. Jason responds by saying that Tracey had said that she had money when he called her and that he has traveled a long way to see her. Tracey explains that she did in fact have money at the point at which Jason called her, and Jason suddenly notices that his mother is “strung out.” Tracey and Jason argue when he confronts her about her drug use, and she claims to need the drugs for her back. When Tracey insists that Jason pay her back the five dollars the following day, he rejects the money, asking “how . . . did this happen?”

Chris goes to visit his mother, Cynthia, at her apartment, and when he arrives, she asks if Chris is hungry. Cynthia is wearing a uniform for her job at a nursing home. Chris asks what happened to Cynthia’s house, and she explains that she “got behind” and changes the subject. Cynthia wonders why Chris delayed telling her he was out of prison, and Chris explains that he needed those six weeks to adjust. When Cynthia notices Chris’s Bible, she tells him that she has heard rumors about his newfound faith. Chris credits the Bible with saving his life, and Cynthia invites him to relax on the couch and make himself at home.

They engage in small talk, commenting on each other’s changed appearances since Cynthia’s last visit to Chris in prison, and Cynthia tells Chris about her two maintenance jobs, one at the university and one at a nursing home. As their conversation falters, Cynthia becomes emotional and apologizes for her inability to visit Chris in recent months. Chris hugs his mother to comfort her and changes the subject to his mother’s friends. Cynthia curses Tracey’s name, which reminds Chris to tell her that Jason is also out of prison. Because Cynthia blames Jason for Chris’s prison sentence, she becomes angry when she hears the news. She asks Chris what happened in the first place to get them into such trouble. 

Scene 2

It is July 17, 2000. Reports of “expanding opportunities for minority employees” in American companies like Johnson & Johnson and General Electric make the national news. In the local news, more Reading children are able to receive free and reduced school lunches thanks to changes to federal rules concerning eligibility. 

Sounds of arguing and raised voices echo through the bar, where Chris, Jason, Jessie, and Tracey all yell at Cynthia to tell them the truth about what happened at the plant. Cynthia claims innocence, promising her friends, her son, and her son’s friend that she knew nothing about the removal of the machines that led to their losing their jobs. Tracey accuses Cynthia of betraying them, but Cynthia denies everything Tracey suggests; Cynthia warns them that the bosses are “going to use this opportunity to renegotiate [their] contracts.”

This information incites even more rage in Tracey, who threatens to strike if the bosses ask them to work longer shifts. Her words inspire more anger in Jessie, Chris, and Jason, and Cynthia cautions them by explaining that some workers who have been at Olstead’s for many years are earning a lot of money and that the bosses “don’t want to carry the burden anymore.” She goes on to state that the factory could be moved to Mexico, where labor is less expensive, and when the others claim that the union will interfere with this plan, Cynthia...

(The entire section contains 1439 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Sweat study guide. You'll get access to all of the Sweat content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Quotes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Previous

Act 1, Scenes 6–7

Next

Act 2, Scenes 4–6