by Lynn Nottage

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

A couple minutes, and your whole life changes, that’s it. It’s gone. Every day I think about what if I hadn’t . . . you know . . . I run it and run it, a tape over and over again. What if. What if. What if.

This quotation is from the first scene in 2008. Chris is speaking with his parole officer. We don’t know what happened, and by Chris not specifically mentioning what “it” is, Nottage is able to build suspense. Throughout the course of the play, we will learn about the escalating conflict that leads to the violent attack Chris is involved in. This quotation establishes that Chris feels guilt—so, although we don’t yet know what he is jailed for, we start to build sympathy for him.

Cynthia: Why the hell not? I’ve got twenty-four years on the floor.

Tracey: Well, I got you beat by two. Started in ’74, walked in straight outta high school. First and only job. Management is for them. Not for us.

Cynthia: More money. More heat. More vacation. Less work. That’s all I need to know.

In 2000, Cynthia and Tracey discuss a newly opened management position, and the rumor is that they will promote a worker off the floor. This will start the rift between these best friends. We understand Cynthia’s hopefulness and motivation for applying and see why Tracey (who has been working there two years longer) would feel jealous that Cynthia gets the job over her.

This quotation is also important for us to see the class divide between floor workers and management. Despite Tracey’s many years and family history at the plant, she still sees management as a separate, unattainable level.

Olsteads isn’t for you.

Tracey says this to Oscar when he asks about job openings. This dialogue is key to the coming conflict, as Tracey believes you have to know someone and be in the union to get a job at Olsteads.

Meanwhile, Oscar has seen a flyer in Spanish advertising openings. This foreshadows Oscar crossing the picket line and the higher-ups seeking out lower-wage workers before the strike and layoffs even occur. Tracey says she’s not racist but treats Oscar as an outsider with comments such as this. These comments lead to Oscar not feeling any loyalty to the workers on strike, since they have never helped him.

I’m not voting. ’Cause whatever lever I pull, it’ll lead to disappointment.

The play does not directly discuss politics or what candidates the characters support, but this quotation from Stan is important to understanding how these rural working-class citizens feel during elections.

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