Themes

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Julia, a black woman, is in love with Herman, who is white. The play takes place over a period of three days when Herman's illness forces the main characters to deal with issues that have shaped their lives for ten years.

Alienation and Loneliness
Alienation and loneliness are important themes in Wedding Band, because they accurately describe the reality of Julia's life. Because of her love for a white man, Julia is alienated from her own race. She is not accepted by black society and rejected by her own white culture, and she has been forced to move several times by prying neighbors who disapprove of her interracial love affair with Herman. Because marriage and cohabitation between blacks and whites is forbidden by South Carolina law, Julia must isolate herself or risk being prosecuted and punished by legal authorities.

Human Rights
Human Rights is an important issue, since the major conflict in Wedding Band is the result of social and racial injustice. Julia and Herman do not have the same rights under the law as a white couple or a black couple. Because their love crosses color lines, they confront the intolerance of society, which is represented by unjust laws. It is the desire to keep races separate that lies at the heart of laws that forbid interracial marriage. Wedding Band presents a convincing argument for the rights of all people to love one another and live together as equals.

Custom and Tradition
Julia and Herman represent a new order in the American south during the twentieth century. They are confronting a tradition of separation of the races with their love for one another. Social custom dictates that Julia should love and marry a black man. Even the law reinforces that custom, but in this play Julia attempts to establish the right to change custom and tradition.

Freedom
The inability to act on personal choice emphasizes the importance of freedom in Wedding Band. Julia and Herman lack the basic freedom to love and marry; laws circumvent that freedom, and consequently, this white man and black woman are forbidden personal choice in terms of whom they will love and marry.

Friendship
Julia's quickness in giving money to Mattie and in helping her read the letter from October illustrate how friendship is a theme in Wedding Band. It is Julia's need for friends that led her to move back into the city. Her isolation in the country, while providing her with an element of protection from the law, resulted in a loneliness so profound that she was forced into risking social ostracism and legal consequences if her relationship with Herman was revealed. The theme of friendship is also important in a second way; it is the friendship of the women in this play—Julia, Mattie, and Lula—that forms a bond against the poverty and racism that permeates their lives.

Limitations and Opportunities
All of the characters in Wedding Band are limited by their location and by time in which they live. Julia lacks the opportunity to marry the man of her choice because the law sets limits on who can and who cannot marry. Herman cannot free himself from his mother and marry the woman he loves because he is limited by the terms of a loan he needs to repay. And although she has been abused and deserted by her first husband, Mattie cannot divorce legally. Her opportunity to marry her partner of eleven years and the father of her child is denied by law, and poverty limits her ability to move and thus seek the divorce she needs....

(This entire section contains 950 words.)

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Nelson is limited by the social conditions of the period which require him with to risk his life in the defense of his country but which deny him protection from the racism of his countrymen.

Prejudice and Tolerance
Prejudice and tolerance are important themes in Wedding Band because it is the community's intolerance and society's racism that keep Julia and Herman from marrying and from seeking medical attention for the dying Herman. And while it clear that Herman's mother is prejudiced against black people, it is also clear that the black characters in Wedding Band are suspicious of the white characters, particularly of Herman. Additionally, Julia's isolation from the community is the result of prejudice and intolerance. She lives alone, moves frequently, and has no friends because the world in which she lives has declared that whites and blacks cannot marry. The law that forbids their union serves to illustrate the depth of social intolerance and prejudice that characterized the south earlier in this century. There is even a prejudice within both white and black society based on class. Fannie sees herself as a step above her tenants because she is a property owner, and Herman's mother is opposed to her daughter's marriage to a "common sailor." Both Fannie and Herman's mother illustrate that subtle nuances of prejudice can be just as oppressive as the more obvious racial prejudices that create tension in this play.

Race and Racism
Race and racism serves as the most prominent theme of Wedding Band. It is racism that leads to Herman's death and to ten long years of denied love. Racism lies at the center of a law that prevents blacks and whites from inter-marrying. Wedding Band examines how legal authority and social custom serve as a force to maintain racism within society. There are also examples of other types of racism in the play. The characters are intolerant of Jews, Germans, and of one another. The actions and words of the characters reveal that racism is more than white oppression of blacks; prejudice can also be found in black Americans' distrust of white Americans.

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