Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

“Wine time” is a summer evening in a black or mostly black neighborhood of a city. It begins approximately at the end of suppertime, when residents come out of their homes into the cooler but still-hot air, and lasts until bedtime, which may be far into the night. It is named for the large amount of cheap wine that is consumed by the people on the sidewalks and stoops that line the streets. In the context of this play, “wine time” suggests a social ritual, marked by conviviality, sexuality, intoxication, and relaxation, among the neighbors, young and old. At the same time, it suggests a lapse in social constraints, a fluidity of action, enhanced desire, and lowered inhibitions, with revelations of felt truths that are hidden during the day. It is a time-out, a break from the pressures of the day. There is a weariness to be rested; there is also a release and an excitement. Anything can suddenly happen, good or bad. Life is still hopeful and troublesome and must be lived, hour by hour; people fall into patterns, repeating their feelings, their talk, and their nightly acts. “Wine time” also suggests a time of youth, with its accompanying inexperience, ignorance, and uncertainty, but also with its potential for discovery, decision, and growth—or for mistake and a slip into oblivion. The term also suggests romance, actual or imaginary or something in between.

These motifs are established, or hinted at, in the poetic, prose prologue to the play....

(The entire section is 529 words.)

Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

In the Wine Time provides an uncompromising picture of life among the African Americans Ed Bullins knows best—the urban poor in the ghettos of Northeastern cities. Space in the play has a confined, claustrophobic quality, representing the narrow choices and lack of power of the characters, which is consistent with the naturalistic view of humans as animals shaped by environmental pressures that they cannot control and of which they are not fully aware. However, Bullins breaks from naturalism in portraying his characters as having certain limited choices. By contrasting various ways that African Americans react to living under pressure from the largely invisible white majority, Bullins makes a clear case for the reaction that he considers appropriate—refusing to play the game.

In this play as in others by Bullins, the women present obstacles to the black men who try to reject societal pressure. Miss Minny Garrison, for example, acts in the “approved” manner. Gospel music symbolizes her commitment to the religion of the whites, and she tries to function as moral arbiter of the neighborhood—initiating petitions to get rid of the “undesirable” Dawsons, trying to direct Ray’s behavior, and, when the final party gets out of hand, calling in the white police.

Lou puts a different kind of pressure on her men. She tries to talk Cliff into taking the menial, low-paying jobs that are available to him so that he will be a...

(The entire section is 561 words.)