Friday, January 25, 2008

Identity in Cane

Probably the most constantly mentioned aspect of Toomer's life is the process through which he would identify with race. Being of mixed blood and able to pass for either white or black as resources have mentioned, finding one culture/race to identify with made a lasting impression on his work. I see this in the material that we have read thus far.
In "Reapers," from the beginning we are given a definite color. The reapers are black and the horses are black. But this color also "paints" the setting and gives the mood. The work here is non-stop, and we are aware of who is doing this work.
In "Karintha," however, we are only told that this woman's skin "is like dusk[...] when the sun goes down." The color here is not definite; when the sun sets, there are varieties of shades and when I think of dusk I don't think of distinct colors other than gray-ish. So in the story, her actual color (and thus race) does not seem to matter as much as what becomes of her.
While it seems that this could be a way of Toomer inserting himself symbolically into the story, one line that catches my attention is "she was as innocently lovely as a November cotton flower."Using associations, when most think of the early South, we come to think of slavery, and when one thinks of slavery, there is usually an association with cotton crops. I found the sentence to be full of irony in that light, since it is being said that the cotton is innocently lovely, which would definitely not be the case under those associations. And with those associations, we realize that we are being told Karintha's race after all, even with the use of ambiguous dusk.

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