[Editor’s note: I compiled this document from Wikipedia and added formatting. It is intended to provide students with
character and plot synopses for all of August Wilson’s plays. Wikipedia allows the redistribution of text as long as hyperlinks
to the original articles are provided. In this document, all of the hyperlinks connect through the play titles under the section
marked as “The Plays.”]
1900s – Gem of the Ocean (2003)
1910s – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1988)
1920s – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984) – set in Chicago
1930s – The Piano Lesson (1990) – Pulitzer Prize
1940s – Seven Guitars (1995)
1950s – Fences (1987) – Pulitzer Prize
1960s – Two Trains Running (1991)
1970s – Jitney (1982)
1980s – King Hedley II (1999)
1990s – Radio Golf (2005)
Gem of the Ocean
Aunt Ester Tyler: a former slave and a “soul-cleanser”, who is the head of 1839 Wylie Avenue. She claims to be 285 years old and
acts as the benevolent, if disciplinarian, ruler of the household. She entertains the romantic ambitions of Solly. She is a recurring
character in several of Wilson’s plays of the Pittsburgh Cycle.
Citizen Barlow: A young man from Alabama who comes to the house to be cleansed by Ester. He is enlisted to help construct a wall,
and eventually journeys to The City of Bones.
Solly Two Kings: a friend of Aunt Ester. He is a former slave from Alabama who later became a conductor on the underground
railroad and a scout for the Union Army. He makes a career of gathering up dog excrement, which he calls “pure”, for manure. He
carries a large walking stick and is in love with Aunt Ester. His real name is Alfred Jackson, but he calls himself “Two Kings”
(referring to King David and King Solomon), and is nicknamed Solly.
“Black” Mary Wilkes: Ester’s housekeeper and her protégé in the art of Soul Cleansing. Caeser’s sister. She performs most of the
household tasks, but never to the satisfaction of Ester.
Caesar Wilkes: Black Mary’s brother, a policeman, baker and land-owner. He upholds the law at all costs. He practices strict
capitalism and has no qualms with killing a man over a petty crime.
Eli: Aunt Ester’s caregiver, he protects the inhabitants and is constructing a wall. He was Solly’s comrade in his efforts on the
Underground Railroad and for The Union Army.
Rutherford Selig: A white peddler and friend of Ester’s who frequently visits the house. He sells pots, pans and other crockery.
The play is set in 1904 at 1839 Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Aunt Ester, the drama’s 285-year-old fiery matriarch,
welcomes into her home Solly Two Kings, who were born into slavery and scouted for the Union Army, and Citizen Barlow, a young
man from Alabama searching for a new life. Citizen Barlow is in search of redemption. Aunt Ester is not too old to practice healing;
she guides him on a soaring, lyrical journey of spiritual awakening to the City of Bones.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Seth Holly: In his early fifties, Seth is owner of the boardinghouse and works as a craftsman.
Bertha Holly: Seth’s wife of 25 years and five years his junior, Bertha runs the boardinghouse. She does all the cooking and cleaning,
later with the aid of Zonia.
Bynum Walker: A “conjure” man staying with the Holly’s at the boardinghouse, Bynum is in his sixties and is a freed slave from the
Rutherford Selig: The only white character in the play, Selig is a peddler who sells Seth’s goods. Known as the “People Finder”,
Selig is from a family that first brought Africans across the Atlantic to become slaves. But now he unites people by recording the
names and places of all the people he peddles to.
Jeremy Furlow: Another resident of the boardinghouse, Jeremy is a guitar-playing 25-year-old. He came to the North looking for a
job and a way in life. He works construction, putting in the new road outside of town.
Herald Loomis: An odd man who dons an overcoat and hat in mid-August, Loomis is 32 and a displaced slave searching for his wife.
He was forced to work for Joe Turner for seven years, which separated him from his wife and daughter. He works as a deacon for the
Abundant Life Church and at times was possessed by spiritual beings.
Zonia Loomis: Herald’s daughter, Zonia is described as a tall and skinny 11-year-old.
Mattie Campbell: Mattie is a 25-year-old girl who is disappointed with her position in life and is looking for love.
Rueben Mercer: Rueben is the Holly’s next door neighbor and about Zonia’s age.
Molly Cunningham: Molly is a good looking young woman of 26 who is strong and independent.
Martha Pentecost: Loomis’ wife, Martha is about 28 and very religious and a member of the Evangelical church. She left the South
and her daughter behind.
Joe Turner: While Turner does not make an actual appearance in the play, he is often referred to with the expectation that the
audience is aware of who he is. Joe Turner, the brother of the governor of Tennessee, would kidnap black men and force them into
labor on his chain gang for seven years.
Scene 1- The audience is introduced to Seth Holly’s boardinghouse, where Seth and his wife Bertha are in the kitchen watching
Bynum in the backyard. Seth is complaining to Bertha about Bynum’s strange spiritual activities. Bertha tells Seth to let him be as he
isn’t bothering anyone. They also talk about Jeremy, a young man staying in the boardinghouse, getting arrested the night before for
supposedly being drunk in public. Seth then has a monologue about the poor situation that the freed slaves are in after traveling up
North. He worries that the African Americans are too naïve and that all the promises of jobs in the North will be taken by the poor
white Americans. Then Rutherford Selig, the People Finder, comes to order dustpans from Seth, a maker of pots and pans. Then
Bynum talks about an adventure that he once took up river where he found the “shiny man”, a man he found on the road that offered to
explain to him the Secret of Life. He had a spiritual encounter with the man, and sees the ghost of his father, telling him to find his
song in life. His song, he later explains, is the Binding Song, which he uses to bind people to one another. Selig leaves and Jeremy
enters, and after getting a scolding from Seth, he tells him that the white cops came and picked him up for no reason and that he was,
in fact, not drunk at all. Then Herald Loomis and his daughter Zonia enter, looking for a place to stay for the week. They reveal that he
is looking for his wife, Martha. After Seth shows them to their room, Jeremy relates a story about his guitar-playing abilities and how
he is wary of playing for white men or money because of a bad experience. Bynum convinces Jeremy to go down to a bar to play for
some money. Seth confides in the Bynum and Bertha his lack of confidence in Loomis, and thinks that he is a “mean looking” man
and he doesn’t want to help him find his wife because of it. After this Mattie Campbell enters, looking for Bynum because she has
heard that he can “fix things”. Her man, Jack has up and left her, but she wants him to come back. Bynum tells her that he can only
bind people that wish to be bound; that she is better off just letting him find his own path in life. Jeremy intervenes and suggests that
Mattie stays with him as to cure both of their loneliness. The scene ends with Zonia and Reuben, the little boy from next door. Reuben
discloses Bynum’s odd tendencies to Zonia and tells her a story about his friend Eugene that used to sell pigeons to Bynum so he could
use their blood in his rituals.
Scene Two- It is a week later and the audience again finds Seth and Bertha eating breakfast in the kitchen. Seth is still worried about
Loomis’s intentions and doesn’t like the look of the man. He suspects that he knows who Loomis’s wife is but won’t tell him because
he is worried about what he will do once he finds her. Selig returns to the house to pick up the dustpans that Seth has made for him
and Loomis pays him to try to find his wife because Bynum tells him that Selig is the People Finder.
Scene Three- It is the next day and yet again we find Seth and Bertha in the kitchen. Seth is upset because he can’t find anyone to front
him the money to make a new factory for making pots and pans. Then Bynum and Jeremy talk about the importance of being in love
with a woman and how being with a woman is all a man needs in life. Then the last boarder enters, Molly Cunningham. She is also
looking for a place to stay because she missed her train to Cincinnati. Jeremy takes a liking to Molly’s appearance.
Scene Four- Again they are in the kitchen of the boarding house when the scene opens. The group has just finished eating dinner when
Seth suggests they “juba”- an African style call and response song and dance. Loomis enters and demands that they stop the singing.
He goes into an episode where he talks in tongues and falls to the floor. He starts recalling a religious hallucination and Bynum has to
calm him down and take him upstairs.
Scene 1- Seth informs Loomis that he has to leave the boardinghouse because he thinks that Loomis was drunk when he had his
episode. Seth tells him that he runs a respectable house and won’t put up with any shenanigans. Loomis and Zonia have until the next
Saturday to leave the house. Bynum, Molly and Mattie are left in the kitchen where they talk about how children often follow in their
parents’ footsteps. Molly asserts that she will never follow her father’s path and that she will always be a strong, independent woman.
Mattie leaves for Doc Goldblum’s, where she cleans and irons for work. Jeremy returns to the house from work and reveals to Seth
that he would not give a white foreman 50 cents to keep his job so he was fired. Seth thinks it was an idiotic choice because now he is
out of a job and no longer makes $8 a week. Molly tells Jeremy that he could easily get his job back by simply returning to work.
Jeremy then asks Molly to travel around with him because he needs a woman that is independent and knows what she wants. Molly
agrees but refuses to return to the South.
Scene Two- Bynum and Seth are playing a game of dominoes and Bynum is singing a song about Joe Turner. Loomis asks Bynum to
stop because he is uncomfortable with the song. Bynum reveals that he knew all along that Loomis was taken away by Joe Turner and
that he needs to find his song in order to start his life again. Loomis relates his story to Bynum and Seth, telling them that he was taken
by Joe Turner’s men while trying to preach to some gambling African Americans. He spent seven years on Turner’s chain gang and
only survived by the thought of his wife and daughter. He tells them that after seven years he returned home to find that his wife had
left and his daughter was living with her grandmother. The scene ends with Loomis being skeptical of Bynum and his voodoo
Scene Three- The scene opens with Bertha reassuring Mattie that she will find everything that she wants and needs in life and that she
just has to be patient. The scene ends with Loomis telling Mattie that he’s noticed her watching him and that he finds her attractive. He
goes to touch her, however, but feels awkward and says “I done forgot how to touch”.
Scene Four- It is the next morning and Zonia and Reuben are in the yard. Reuben tells Zonia that he has seen the ghost of Seth’s
mother earlier that morning and she made him keep his promise to Eugene and release the pigeons. They marvel at the idea that people
could come back to life in the form of spirits. Reuben then asks Zonia if he can kiss her on the lips and she agrees. They decide that
later in life they will find each other to get married.
Scene Five- In the final scene Loomis and Zonia leave the boardinghouse as it is Saturday. Bertha tells Mattie that all she needs in life
is love and laughing- which they all start to do. Then Martha Pentecost [Loomis] enters with Selig looking for Loomis and Zonia.
Loomis reenters with Zonia and he recounts the last decade of his life; his search for her and the heartache it has caused him. Martha
tells him that she has moved on with her life because she couldn’t wait for him any longer. Martha also reveals that she had Bynum
put a binding spell on her and Zonia and that is why they have come to find each other. Loomis goes into a rage and pulls out a knife.
He denounces his Christian background and slashes his chest. The stage directions read “Having found his song, the song of selfsufficiency,
fully resurrected, cleansed and given breath, free from any encumbrance other than the workings of his own heart and the
bonds of the flesh, having accepted the responsibility for his own presence in the world, he is free to soar above the environs that
weighed and pushed his spirit into terrifying contractions.” He leaves and the play ends with Bynum yelling “Herald Loomis, you
shining! You shining like new money!”
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Ma Rainey: Blues singer
Dussie Mae: Ma’s girlfriend
Irvin: Ma’s manager
Slow Drag: bassist
Sylvester: Ma’s nephew
In a Chicago-based recording studio, Ma Rainey’s band players, Cutler, Toledo, Slow Drag, and Levee turn up to record a new album
of her songs. As they wait for her to arrive they banter, tell stories, joke, philosophise and argue. As the play unfolds it becomes clear
that the tension is between the young hot-headed trumpeter Levee, who has dreams of having his own band, and veteran players Cutler
and Toledo. By the time Ma Rainey does turn up in full regalia and entourage in tow, the recording schedule is badly behind, throwing
the white producers Sturdyvant and Irvin into more and more irate disarray. Ma’s insistence that her stuttering nephew Sylvester
should do the voice intro to the title song causes more havoc. As the band waits for various technical problems to be resolved, the
conflict between Levee and Cutler reaches boiling point and violence ensues. Finally, when Levee is simultaneously fired from the
band by Ma for his insubordination and then rejected by Sturdyvant who had offered to record his songs his anger becomes too much
and he stabs Toledo, killing him, thus destroying any possibility of a future for himself.
The Piano Lesson
Boy Willie: Berniece’s impulsive 30-year-old brother represents the lack of accepting one’s past. A sharecropper and recently
delivered out of prison from Mississippi, Boy Willie plans to sell the piano and use the earnings to buy the land where his ancestors
had formerly toiled. His use of the legacy comes down to practicality; Willie finds the rich culture of his history engraved on the piano
through pictures, blood, and tears to be a simple conversion to money. Rather than looking upon his past and accepting it, Boy Willie
finds the constant need to prove himself as equal to the white man.
Unable to understand the importance of keeping one’s legacy around one to understand and grow from it, Boy Willie only concerns
himself with labels and capital. In the last scene of the book, after Berniece calls to the ancestors, Boy Willie finally understands that
there is no escape from living his ancestral legacy and the only way to benefit from it is to learn from it.
Lymon: Lymon is the 29-year-old friend of Boy Willie and is much more secretive and shy in comparison, however, upon becoming
more comfortable with the family, his attitude changes to be a sympathizer who doesn’t offer many original opinions. He does not
speak brashly and attempts to escape the law by staying in the North and starting a new life. His desire to please women and find his
soul mate softens Berniece’s gaze on crude men and gives him a slight leeway to kiss her.
Berniece: The 35-year-old mother of Maretha, Berniece symbolizes the guardian of her ancestors’ past. She remains the only member
of the family to adamantly demand the keepsake of the piano heirloom. Her relation with her brother further portrays her mourning of
her late husband Crawley. Blaming Boy Willie for Crawley’s death, Berniece questions Boy Willie’s foolish actions more than others.
While Boy Willie represents an opposing figure to their father Boy Charles by wanting to be a property owning man, Berniece draws
similarities to her mother Mama Ola who never seemed to recover from the mourning of her husband either. Berniece feels as if the
piano should stay in the home rather be sold and it is a family heirloom. The piano is in her residence and was the one who was led to
the piano first. She did not feel the need to rearrange her ancestors’ past and instead embraced it. To Berniece, the piano represents her
father’s life, since he died over it, and her mother’s toil, since she incessantly asked Berniece to play after his death. Originally
playing the role of the messenger between the dead ancestors and the living descendants, Berniece prefers to stop channeling her
family’s ghosts after her mother’s death. Since she does not want to disturb the spirits in the piano, Berniece leaves the piano
untouched and does not play it.
Maretha: The 11-year-old daughter of Berniece, Maretha plays the role of the future generation for the Charles family. Although
Berniece teaches her how to play the piano, she does not allow any history of the piano become apparent to Maretha. Maretha’s
encounters with ghosts are approached without Berniece’s liking. Maretha also allows experimentation among the future progeny of
the Charles family, leading observations regarding the best way to pass down family history.
Avery Brown: A 38-year-old preacher who has been attempting to court Berniece ever since the death of Crawley, Avery Brown is a
man of honest and good intentions. Constantly stressing his Christian view on things and advocating his hopes to build a congregation,
Avery is aware that Berniece will never sell her piano heirloom. Also not related to the Charles family, Avery often offers advice to
Berniece in an effort to help her let go of the fears of her past and the lingering mourning of her husband. Avery’s humble personality
further emphasizes Berniece’s lack of relieving her deceased husband’s memory. He tries desperately to help her find her path and
supports her through her pain. In the final scene, Avery’s blessings on the house help bring Berniece back to her position of
communicating between the living and the deceased.
Wining Boy: The comical figure in The Piano Lesson, the Wining Boy is the 56-year-old elder brother of Doaker Charles. He tries to
portray the image of a successful musician and gambler, but his music and attire are extremely dated. Instead of wanting to live in the
present and the future like his nephew Boy Willie, Wining Boy drowns himself in the sorrows of his past. Whenever he ends up
bankrupt, he wanders back into the Charles house to retell the days of the glory and fame. His former days of glory emphasize the
submergence of his soul in the past. Wining Boy is also the only other character, aside from Berniece, who can speak with the dead.
He speaks to the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog and to his deceased wife, Cleotha.
Grace: One of the last figures to be added to the play, Grace shows the desires of both Boy Willie and Lymon. Both men attempt to be
with her and play to her good graces. Since she is not a member of the Charles family, the tension she feels in the last scene of Act
Two demonstrates how strong the presence of the ancestral ghosts are in the Charles household.
Crawley: Berniece’s deceased husband of three years
Mama Ola: Berniece and Boy Willie’s mother
Boy Charles: Berniece and Boy Willie’s father
Sutter’s Ghost: The man who owned the Charles family in the time of slavery
Cleotha: Wining Boy’s deceased wife
Act 1, Scene 1
The Boy Willie and Lymon enter into the Charles household at dawn with a truck full of watermelon they intend to sell. Against his
better judgement and Uncle Doaker’s insistence, Boy Willie calls awake his sister Berniece, whom he has not seen in three years due
to his sentence in the Parchment Prison Farm. Altogether, the family members and Lymon celebrate the drowning of Sutter (the family
who owned the Charles family during slavery) in the well. Tired of her brother’s stupid actions, Berniece dismisses his words and
wishes him to leave the house as soon as possible. To annoy her further, Boy Willie calls upon Maretha, Berniece’s daughter, in the
middle of the night to stir her from her sleep, causing Berniece to run back up the stairs.
Switching topics, Willie then asks of his Uncle Wining Boy, who has become a wanderer in his middle age looking for the past he
seems to want to relive. Lymon then brings up the piano. Willie intends to sell the watermelon and the piano to buy the Sutters’ land
the Charles family had once toiled upon. Doaker insists that Berniece will not agree to selling the piano and Willie insists that he will
Seeing Sutter’s ghost dressed in a blue suit, Berniece screams at the top of the stairs. Her brother Willie tells her that she is imaging
things and that Sutter is looking for the piano to be rid of the Charles household. After Doaker rambles on about his railroad stories,
Maretha comes downstairs and Willie asks her to play the piano. She plays the beginning of a few simple tunes and he answers her
song with a boogie-woogie. Willie then asks Maretha if she knows the origins of the piano and is surprised to discover she does not.
Avery and Berniece reenter the room, and Willie casually asks his sister if she might still have the prospective buyer’s name. Finally
professing his desire to sell the piano for land, Berniece refuses to listen and walks out.
Act 1, Scene 2
Wining Boy and Doaker are having a conversation about daily events and they muse over the present and the past. Boy Willie and
Lymon enter and claim that they have already bargained with the piano purchaser. Both of Willie’s uncles warn Willie that the white
man Sutter is cheating him and that he should be more careful. Seeing himself as equal to the white man, Boy Willie refuses to listen.
The story behind Lymon and Boy Willie’s term in Parchment Prison Farm is revealed. Lymon and Willie both gather different
perspectives from their experiences. Lymon feels that he should flee to the North where he will be better treated, while Willie feels
that whites only treat blacks badly if the blacks do not try and stop them. Wining Boy is then asked to play the piano, but instead he
gives a short speech regarding his inexistence due to playing piano his whole life and knowing nothing more.
Doaker then tells Lymon the story of what the piano represents, the enriching values that it bestowed on the Charles family. Willie
declares that these are stories of the past and that the piano should now be put to good use. Willie and Lymon attempt to move the
piano to test its weight. As soon as they try to move it, Sutter’s ghost is heard. Berniece commands Willie to stop and informs him that
he is selling his soul for money. Willie refutes her, Berniece blames Crawley’s death on Willie, and the two engage in a fight. Upstairs,
Maretha is confronted by the ghosts, and she screams.
Act 2, Scene 1
Doaker and Wining Boy are again together in the house alone. Doaker confesses that he saw Sutter’s ghost playing the piano and feels
that Berniece should discard the piano so as to prevent spirits from traumatizing the Charles family. Wining Boy disagrees. Lymon
and Willie walk into the room after a watermelon sale. Wining Boy sells his suit and shoes to Lymon, promising its swooning affects
on woman. Both Lymon and Willie leave the house in hot pursuit of women.
Act 2, Scene 2
Later that day as Berniece is preparing for her bath, Avery enters and proposes that Berniece should open up and let go. He tells her
that she cannot continue to live her life with Crawley’s memory shut inside her. Berniece changes the topic and asks Avery to bless the
house, hoping to destroy the spirit of the Sutter ghost. Avery then brings up the piano and tells Berniece she should learn to not be
afraid of her family’s spirits and play it again. Berniece breaks down her story of her mother’s tears and blood mingled with her father’s
soul on the piano and refuses to open her wounds for everyone to see.
Act 2, Scenes 3–5
Boy Willie enters the Charles house with Grace and begins to fool around on the couch. Berniece orders them out and opens the door
to see Lymon. Lymon is upset over his inability to woo women and begins to talk about women’s virtues to Berniece. The two kiss,
breaking Berniece’s discomfort over Crawley’s death, and Berniece heads back upstairs.
The next morning, Lymon and Willie try to move the piano out and are stopped by Uncle Doaker. Willie, frustrated, demands that he
will sell the piano no matter what. The day to move the piano draws closer. Excited to sell the piano, Willie quickly partakes on his
actions without a care of his sister’s words. Berniece appears with Crawley’s gun, leading Doaker and Avery to urge them to talk it
through first. Sutter’s presence as a ghost is suddenly revived. Avery attempts to drive the ghost away with his blessings but is not
successful. Suddenly, Berniece knows that she must play the piano again as a plea to her ancestors. Finally, the house is led to a calm
aura, and Willie leaves.
Just released from jail, Blues singer Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton is asked to sign a record deal after a song he recorded months before
becomes an unexpected hit.
 After a year of trials and tribulations, Floyd is ready to right the past year’s wrongs and return to
Chicago with a new understanding of what’s important in his life. Unfortunately his means of righting wrongs are inherently flawed.
The play’s recurring theme is the African-American male’s fight for his own humanity, self-understanding and self-acceptance in the
face of personal and societal ills. The rooster is a recurring symbol of black manhood throughout the play, and provides a violent and
shocking foreshadowing effect when Hedley delivers a fiery monologue and ritualistically slaughters one in front of the other
The focus of Wilson’s attention in Fences is Troy, a 53-year-old head of household who struggles with providing for his family and
with his obsession with cheating death. The location is never specified but seems to be Pittsburgh as there are several references to
some of its notable institutions. Troy was a great baseball player in his younger years, having spent time practicing in prison for an
accidental murder he’d committed during a robbery. Because the color barrier had not yet been broken in Major League Baseball, Troy
was unable to make good money or to save for the future. He now lives a menial, though respectable life of trash collecting–
remarkably crossing the race barrier and becoming a driver instead of just a barrel lifter. He lives with his wife, Rose, his son Cory
(who still lives in the house at the play’s opening), and Troy’s younger brother Gabriel, an ex-soldier whose war injury to his head has
caused him noticeable psychological damage. Lyons is Troy’s son from a previous marriage, and lives outside the home. Bono is
Troy’s best friend. Troy had taken Gabriel’s money that he’d been entitled to for his injury, and bought the house he currently lives in.
A short time before the play’s opening, Gabriel has rented a room elsewhere, but still in the neighborhood. The fence referred to by
the play’s title is revealed to be finished in the final act of the play, and Bono has bought his wife a refrigerator as he promised Troy he
would do if he finished building it. It is not immediately known why Troy wants to build it, but a dramatic monologue in the second
act shows how he conceptualizes it as an allegory—to keep the Grim Reaperaway. Rose also wanted to build the fence and forced her
husband to start it as a means of securing what was her own, keeping what belonged inside in and what should stay outside stay out.
Two Trains Running
The play takes place in the Hill District, an African-American neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1969. It explores the
social and psychological manifestations of changing attitudes toward race from the perspective of urban blacks.
Regular cabs will not travel to the Pittsburgh Hill District of the 1970s, and so the residents turn to each other. Jitney dramatizes the
lives of men hustling to make a living as jitneys—unofficial, unlicensed taxi cab drivers. When the boss Becker’s son returns from
prison, violence threatens to erupt. What makes this play remarkable is not the plot; Jitney is Wilson at his most real—the words these
men use and the stories they tell form a true slice of life.
 ‘More on Plot Many stories are told. The complications with Darnell and
Rena. In the past Darnell did cheat on Rena and they have a son together named Jesse. Rena thinks Darnell is at it again when he
vanishes at heafty parts of the day and when their food money is gone. Darnell then comes clean about how he had been trying to buy
a house. First upset about this discovery she explains to Darnell how idiotic it was to surprise her with a house, but Darnell explains
due to his good intentions and how he’s a changed man that sometimes Rena needs to let the past be the past. Becker and Boosters
story is one of the main plots. Becker sees his son Booster after he served time for murdering a white woman after she (the white
woman) claimed that she was raped by Booster. Becker’s disappointment is evident throughout the play. Especially when Booster’s
legal troubles happened right around the time his biological mother was sick and dying. After serving time he goes to his father’s
Jitney station and tries to make amends. This is when his father and he argue and his father disowns him. When Becker finally dies at
the end and the phone is ringing in the middle of the station everyone looks at Booster, he picks up the phone and says ‘car service’
which symbolizes that Booster fills his father’s place as the boss of the Jitney station. Note Most of August Wilson’s plays always tell
the battle between a father and son’s rocky relationship and/or the trouble found in a romantic relationship.
King Hedley II
King Hedley II is the protagonist in a play set wholly in his front yard. He lives with his mother and his wife. His best friend is often
around, and right as the play starts his mother’s on-off boyfriend comes back into town. The boyfriend, Elroy, has coming back to visit
King’s mother, Ruby. Ruby doubts Elroy’s love. Meanwhile King’s wife, Tonya, is worried that King is going to go do something
stupid, and end up in jail again, and she is also angry with him for still loving a dead sweetheart. King has been in jail once before, for
killing a man (partially in self-defense), and is half-heartedly trying to stay straight. Meanwhile, Mister (his best friend) is wanting to
take his half of the money out of the pot, which they are saving to buy a video store. King is so desperate that he plans a robbery to get
the needed money. The robbery works out, though they didn’t get all the money, because they couldn’t break into the owners safe.
While this is happening Tonya discovers that she is pregnant. King is very happy, because he has wanted a baby since Neesi, his old
love, died. Tonya is now worried. She has had one baby before, but that girl’s father and step-father were both in jail, and Tonya
couldn’t provide a good life for her. Tonya’s girl, Natasha, didn’t turn out very well because of this. Tonya gives a moving speech
about how she doesn’t care if King gets her money, or commits crimes for her, because when King is caught she couldn’t take it to be
held responsible for ruining all three of their lives. She says that she wishes he wouldn’t do it, but if he is going to, don’t do it for her.
Eventually King sees that the man he killed had children, and he understands her worry, and doesn’t need the child anymore. This
makes Tonya happy, but she still urges him to keep on the straight and narrow for the baby. Mister buys a cool gun from Elroy, who
also happens to be a con man. Mister doesn’t get the gun to work as he thought it would, so he sells it to Ruby, who says that it works
well enough for her. Elroy and Ruby also announce their engagement, which Ruby has waited so long for. It soon becomes clear that
Elroy and Ruby know something about the father of King, that King doesn’t. King thinks that he is the son of King Hedley, one of
Ruby’s men. But Ruby and Elroy know that King is actually the son of Leroy, a man who Elroy killed. Elroy is having trouble keeping
this secret, so finally in a thrilling end scene he spills. Now King is mad at Elroy for killing him, and he is shocked and angry at Ruby
for keeping it secret. Ruby is mad at Elroy for telling. Elroy and King get involved in a violent fight, but just as it is winding down (or
verbally anyway) Ruby comes in brandishing her gun. She shoots it, and kills her son King. Tonya is very sad. Mister is sad, too.
Ruby then sits on the grass, and sings King’s favorite song. The play ends with a sad speech from the crazy next-door neighbor, StoolPigeon.
Elder Joseph Barlow
Harmond Wilkes, an Ivy League-educated man who has inherited a real estate agency from his father, his ambitious wife Mame, and
his friend Roosevelt Hicks want to redevelop the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The project, called the Bedford Hills
Redevelopment Project, includes two high-rise apartment buildings and high-end chain stores like Starbucks, Whole Foods,
and Barnes & Noble. Harmond is also about to declare his candidacy to be Pittsburgh’s first black mayor. Roosevelt has just been
named a vice-president of Mellon Bank and has been tapped by a Bernie Smith to help him acquire a local radio station at less than
market value, which is possible through a minority tax incentive. A complication arises when Harmond discovers that the house at
1839 Wylie, slated for demolition, was acquired illegally. Harmond offers the owner of the property market value for the house, but
the owner refuses to sell. Harmond decides the only way to proceed is to build around the house, which will require minor
modifications to the planned development, and calls the demolition company to cancel the demolition. Roosevelt sees no reason to
delay since no one but Harmond, Roosevelt, Mame, and the house’s owner know the truth, a view Mame supports. When, on the day
of the demolition, which Roosevelt has put back into motion, Harmond refuses to be swayed from his stand, Roosevelt announces he
will be buying Harmond out and Bernie Smith will be helping him. Harmond accuses Roosevelt of being Smith’s “black face” and the
two argue over the consequences of Harmond demanding changes in the development plans and if Roosevelt is allowing himself to be
used by Bernie Smith. Harmond tells Roosevelt to leave the Bedford Hills Redevelopment office, which is owned by Wilkes Realty.
The scene ends with Harmond leaving the office to join the group of Hills residents at 1839 Wylie protesting the demolition.