Woman as Sexual Object or Healer in Terraplane Blues and Come on in My Kitchen

by: Maggie Gordon

Robert Johnson's contrasting attitudes towards women, one as the sexual objects and one as the healer, are most apparent when comparing the two songs, "Terraplane Blues" and "Come on in My Kitchen." While the first humorously identifies his woman as a low-prices machine in "Terraplane Blues," he seeks warmth and genuine comfort from another in "Come on in My Kitchen." Johnson shows that, in avoiding sexual relations, he can make use of a woman's emotional strength and support.

Johnson compares his woman and her body parts to a relatively cheap and conservative car in "Terraplane Blues." He refers to her cheating on him as someone else "driving her" while he was gone. Interestingly, he chose the Terraplane, which was a conservative, low priced sedan of the 1930s. using an average, non-descript car, along with his degrading description of how he will "hoist her hood," "check her oil," and "tangle with her wires," shows her lack of respect and condescending attitude toward the type of woman with whom he has sexual relations.

Johnson decorates and adds variety and fire to this song with his voice and his exciting guitar moves, but the sung descriptions still show a lifeless, common woman under his control. The woman here, like a common car, works like any other, has the same parts, needs the same things, and starts the same way. he continuously fiddles with her, trying to find the loose connection, the reason she isn't "giving him fire." He remains confident that he can bring her back to life sexually, so everything he tries is physical . He does not coax her, but instead throws open her hood, rummages around inside, and pulls on coils and wires. He confirms that, when he mashes down on her "little starter," then he "spark plug will give him fire." His actions are violent, his words violently anxious and threatening. Johnson sees a woman's sexuality as a machine, something to be bought, worked on mechanically, and driven hard.

On the other hand, Johnson finds support from a woman in the first take of "Come on in My Kitchen" by blurring gender and avoiding sex. Here, in this woman's kitchen, he finds warmth and shelter, but not in her bedroom. he is honest with her about his past and himself because he does not see her as a machine. She willingly invites him into her kitchen because of his honesty and his open request for comfort and friendship.

This song shows Johnson's ability to ask for a woman's support by approaching her door from a level other than physical (in terms of sex). There are no references to her sexual parts, proving that Johnson desires something besides sex. Johnson seeks her shelter and her taking him in to protect him from the pains of winter an the coming rain prove that he usually gets what he wants from a woman, as long as he avoids sex. He cries of loss and heartache in the howling wind, and immediately she takes him in, as she would another woman.

These two songs show Johnson's opposing attitudes towards women and his ability to use them as he needs them. What he gets from a woman depends on how he approaches her, from which perspective he views her. In the case of the Terraplane, he sees her as a car, and not a flashy one at that, trying to satisfy himself without the concern for her possible objection. Her lack of life frustrates him, but he seems to have expected it, since he identified her from the beginning as a machine. When Johnson sees the woman as a healer, her actions suggest a move to comfort and protect him. Although neither situation brings Johnson much satisfaction, his attitude determines the actions and mood of the women.