Should he survive his time at war, he will return to the same lack of opportunity, the same segregation, and the same hostility he has left; he will not even allow himself to hope that he might come back to something different.
Bell man is a thirty year old white peddler who extends credit to his black female customers, and is owed money by most women in the neighborhood. As the play opens, Julia and Herman are celebrating ten years together.
The play was very successful, and Childress became the first woman to win the Village Voice Obie Award for the best original Off-Broadway play of the season. Childress, who dropped out of high school after two years, was raised in Harlem in New York City by her grandmother, Eliza Campbell.
She is showing the strain of ten years of social disapproval and isolation. The last scene opens with Julia dressed in her wedding dress. She seems artificially excited and there is evidence that she has been drinking wine. 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.
Her neighbors cannot understand why Julia would choose a white man with no money and their disapproval is clear as they walk away from her.
Rather than present audiences with a model for racial harmony, Childress exposes the reality of life for black and white Americans as she explores the frailty of a humanity so entrenched in maintaining rules and social lines that it forgets that there are lives at stake. The landlady refuses to call a doctor for fear of legal action directed against her for sheltering this couple; the landlady also fears that social disrepute will be aimed against everyone present, especially herself.
Human Rights is an important issue, since the major conflict in Wedding Band is the result of social and racial injustice.
Herman and Julia begin to make plans for their wedding, but Act I ends with Herman becoming ill. Herman is a forty year old uneducated man, who is slightly graying. Nelson is so cowed by the system and his environment that even when a pail of dirty water is dumped on his head he reacts with apologies and is unable to assert sex. She is in love with Herman even though he has no money and is uneducated. Nelson proposes to the woman he is courting, but she declines his proposal because, as she tells him, he has nothing to offer her. Julia and Herman do not have the same rights under the law as a white couple or a black couple.
There was interest in producing the play on Broadway, but because of its controversial subject matter the play remained largely unknown to audiences. She calls herself Thelma, but her real name is Frieda, a German name that she conceals out of fear of discrimination. Campbell had only an elementary school education, but she was an accomplished storyteller and likely instilled in Childress an early interest in telling stories. As the play opens, Teeta is weeping because she has lost a quarter.
Herman gives Julia enough money to buy a ticket childress New York, and she makes plans to leave in two days. Like Julia and Mattie, Lula has lonely suffered economically and personally. The play takes place over a period of three. Although her first husband had beaten and deserted her, Mattie cannot be free of him so that she can marry the want of her child and the man with whom she has lived for eleven years. Herman seems to be the only character who does not see people in terms of race; he treats Julia and her black neighbors the same as he would treat any person of any color.
Princess is the eight year old white child who Mattie babysits, and who serves as a playmate for Teeta. Nelson is the adopted adult son of Lula. She became interested in acting after hearing an actress recite Shakespeare and ed the American Negro Theatre ANT in Harlem when she was twenty years old. Because their love crosses color lines, they confront the intolerance of society, which is represented by unjust laws.
Childress died of cancer on August 14, Wedding Band depicts a tragedy involving an interracial affair. They would like to escape the south and move to the north where they would be free to marry, but Herman is not free to leave, since he must repay money borrowed from his mother when he purchased his bakery.
Next, Herman appears with a boxed wedding cake and a ring to celebrate their tenth common-law anniversary. Finally in Wedding Band was produced in New York for the first time. Her young son died when he wandered in front of a train and was struck.
Julia and Herman represent a new order in the American south during the twentieth century. She was deserted by her first husband who beat her, but she cannot divorce him because divorce is not legal in South Carolina. Julia, a black woman, is in love with Herman, who is white.
Her husband chased women, abused her, and then died. Faced with the disapproval of her neighbors, Julia has been forced to move several times; it is clear that she is lonely and discouraged. She has been with October for eleven years and they have a daughter. Because of her love for a white man, Julia is alienated from her own race. Julia is a black woman in love with a white man, Herman.
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Mattie is a very poor black woman with all the economic problems of a single mother. Annabelle is a war-time volunteer at the Naval hospital, but when Herman falls sick she is of little help; like her mother, she is also opposed to calling a doctor and wants to wait for the protection of darkness before moving Herman out of the black neighborhood. Herman states that he can repay his debts and her in a year; in the interim, Julia can stay with her cousin. 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.
Julia is surrounded by her neighbors, and it is revealed that her neighbor Mattie is not legally married, since South Carolina does not permit divorce. It is the desire to keep races separate that lies at the heart of laws that forbid interracial marriage.
Single but never alone
Herman is ill, however, and dying. The play examines the enduring nature of love between a white man and a black woman in South Carolina. Frieda is intolerant and would rather her son Herman die then be with Julia. She wants to marry Walter, but he is a common sailor, not an officer, and so not socially acceptable as a husband according to her mother. Lula makes paper flowers to earn extra money. At this moment Herman arrives with two tickets to New York, but Julia is unable to forget the confrontation of the day or a lifetime of racial hatred, and so she gives the tickets and her wedding band to Mattie and her.
Because she is German, Annabelle has been discriminated against and so places a in a window of her home proclaiming that her family is American. Frieda believes in a racist ideology and is a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. She has a great deal of dignity and struggles to earn extra money making candy and babysitting a white child, Princess.
She fears a quarantine, social condemnation, and legal difficulties if a doctor is called for Herman. He is a poor but hardworking baker, is genuinely compassionate, and is trapped in South Carolina by the loan he received from his mother when he purchased the bakery. Julia frees Mattie when she gives her the two tickets to New York and her wedding band. She is evidently very tall and is happy to have finally found a man who is taller than she.
The other women who rent from Fanny, Lula, and Mattie, have been victimized by brutal husbands and have experienced personal tragedy.
Wedding Band confronts racism, but Childress reveals that racism is not only directed at blacks, but is also displayed by blacks. Annabelle wants Herman to break off from Julia and marry a white woman who can help care for their mother; she sees this as the only way she will ever be freed from her mother and able to marry Walter.
She tries to free Mattie by giving her the tickets and the wedding band. Finally, Herman is taken away amid many accusations and much rancor. She reveals that she was not happy being married to a common man and that five of the seven children she bore were stillborn. She is a social outcast, not really a member of her own black race and certainly not welcomed by whites.
Although Childress never attended college, she was much in demand as a lecturer and speaker at colleges.
While white critics argued that Herman should have been stronger and more determined to break away from southern racism, black critics maintained that Childress should have focused her writing on a black couple. She was married twice and had a daughter from her first marriage. As Herman and Julia talk they remember the years of love and closeness, and they finally resolve the tensions that separated them. She so hates the black woman her son loves and is so repulsed by their relationship that she refuses to call a doctor for him.
In the play, whites, Asians, and Jews are also victims of racism. Lula adopted Nelson from an orphanage after these deaths; she now channels all of her energy into caring for her adopted son and worries about him excessively.
The ring is mounted on a chain so that Julia might wear it, since they both realize that she cannot wear the gift as a wedding ring. Her desperate search for the lost money illustrates how scarce cash is for Mattie and reveals the poverty of her life. He asks Julia for sex and offers to give her stockings in return. For Julia, all white people are the enemy except for Herman. Wedding Band presents a convincing argument for the rights of all people to love one another and live together as equals. He is home on leave from the army and due to report back in a couple of days.
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The action takes place over a period of three days near the end of World War I. The setting is South Carolina where state law prevents interracial marriage. He is filled with bravado but is really scared and intimidated. Her common-law husband, October, is away at sea in the merchant marines. Although her formal education ended early, Childress continued to educate herself during hours spent reading at the public library. To satisfy their curiosity, Julia tells them that she has been in love with a man for ten years but that she cannot marry him because he is white.
And it is clear that all of the women in this play have struggled against economic oppression and social injustice. Childress wrote her first play, Florence, in This one-act play explored racial issues and was well received by critics and audiences. Her landlady, Fanny, is a pretentious black woman who is revealed to be superficial and hypocritical. He recognizes that, as a black man, he has no real future.