Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Fern" and 1920s Georgia

From a historical standpoint, “Fern” best illustrates Toomer’s reflections on his Georgia life. “Fern” shows a man confused by racial relations as he pursues the black woman, Fern. There is a contradiction within Toomer, as he is of both white and black descent. Because of this, his narrator notices hostility from white people (“A white man had to flick him with his whip…” (17), “people started to stare at us” (19)) and black people (“there was talk they were going to make me leave town” (19)), similar to what Toomer, himself, probably experienced in his time in Georgia. The narrator begins to break away from his mixed race as he attempts to identify more with Fern. This is where Toomer begins to identify himself, as well as his narrator, as a man with strictly black ties. Toomer experienced many racist moments in his time in Georgia. There were many lynchings and mob killings by the Klan from the 1900s to the 1920s. Governor of Georgia, Clifford Walker, also had strong ties with the Klan during this time period. During this difficult time for the black society of Georgia, Toomer broke his mix race and began to identify himself only as black. This is why at the end of “Fern”, Toomer writes, “Something I would do for her” (19). He writes this to show that although both races resent Toomer, he still tries to help the black people with their struggles in 1920s Georgia.

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