Jitney (1977, 2000)
by August Wilson

Study Guide

Act One (11-60)

Act One Scene One

  • What is a jitney?
  • What are Becker's rules? (Note the number of ways that Becker's Rules have started to come apart among the jitney drivers. What other social institutions are fraying under the stress of economic circumstances?)
  • Describe the characters who appear in Scene One. What do we find out about them over the course of the twelve hours enacted in the first half of the play?
  • Youngblood:
  • Turnbo:
  • Fielding:
  • Doub:
  • Shealy:
  • Philmore:
  • Becker:
  • Rena:
  • Booster:
  • Even though this play only has nine characters in it, the whole Hill District in Pittsburgh bustles off stage with countless characters who come to life in the stories the jitney drivers tell. That's good playwriting. Describe the following off-stage characters and the places where they hang out. What portrait of the neighborhood is Wilson presenting?
  • Pope and his new Buick Impala (The city is closing his reastaurant.)
  • Shealy's girls: Rosie and that 'that little yellow gal'
  • Clifford's Coffee Shop right next door
  • The Workingman's Club (where Kenny Fisher is playing and there was a big crowd last night.)
  • The Frankstown Bar where Fillmore loves on the second floor.
  • Mr. Pease (Pittsburgh Urban Renewal Council)
  • Old Lady McNeil's grandson (he got that funny shaped head)
  • Becker's wife, Lucille
  • Shealy's nephew (who hangs with Jenkin's boy and broke into Taylor's with old man Pitt's son):
  • Cigar Annie (who standing up there in the middle of Robert Street cussing out everybody).
  • Crazy Jasper (who went crazy and jumped off the Irene Kaufman Settlement House)
  • Peaches (who Youngblood been drivin around and she rena's sister!)
  • Mr. Harper (who is laying closing costs for a new house on Youngblood.)
  • Think about the particular day on which August Wilson has chosen to set the action of his play. This is not any day.
  • Today's the day that Becker will announce to his drivers that the Urban Renewal is moving in, he's moving out, and he's not sure that he wants to keep the business going.
  • Today's the day that Fielding starts drinking on the job again and gonna get himself fired.
  • Today's the day that the feud between Youngblood and Turnbo breaks wide open.
  • Today's the day that Rena confronts Youngblood with her suspicions about his running around with Peaches.
  • Today's the day that Becker's boy, Booster, gets out of prison and comes home to meet his father.
  • As you read Jitney, think about the ways that August Wilson is weaving the different strands of action together to build towards catharsis. How are the strands of the action inter-related? (ie, it is not just an accident that each of these thunderheads breaks simultaneously.)
  • What has pushed Turnbo over the edge today? (Look at his rant about Old Lady Neil's grandsons (20) and his rant about respect. (30-31)) What does he tell Rena?
  • Why has Rena run out of patience with Youngblood? What was the straw which broke the camel's back for her? (32-35)
  • Why is Becker thinking about giving up after the city let him know that they were gonna board up the place the first of the month? (36)
  • Who did Booster kill? Why? (39)
  • How does the fight between Youngblood and Turnbo break out? (43)
  • Describe the way Becker functions in this neighborhood: what makes his presence essential?
  • How does Fielding get himself fired? (51) Who does he dream about twenty years later? (53)
  • Thesis: How are the strands of the action inter-related? (ie, is it just an accident that each of these thunderheads breaks simultaneously?)
  • Paragraph: Think about the contrasting strategies of Booker Washington and Malcolm X. Which response to racism does Wilson support? (Malcolm vs. King)