An Analysis Of Jean Toomer's Cane

1699 words - 7 pages

An Analysis of Jean Toomer's Cane      

In the prose fiction Cane: Jean Toomer uses the background of the Black
American in the South to assist in establishing the role of the modernist
black writer.  While stylistic characteristics such as ambiguity of words and
the irony of the contradictory sentences clearly mask this novel as a
modernist work.   Toomer draws upon his experiences and his perspective of
the life of Blacks in Georgia to create a setting capable of demonstrating
the difficulties facing the twentieth-century Black author.  This
presentation is both vivid and straightforward and while acknowledges the
fall of slavery, it also examines the after-effects which remain in American
life.  The effects of racism in U.S. history have made the job of defining
Black culture particularly difficult, Toomer however, remains on of the first
black authors who addresses the issue of a post slavery society.  The text
itself presents numerous references regarding Toomer's beliefs that the past
inspires the modern writer.  However, the focus remains on the present
situation of Blacks in America and not their history.  One of the most
interesting aspects in his work proves to be his use of prose, structure, and
character to draw upon his Black heritage to demonstrate how history does
affect the modern Black.  By incorporating history in to these parts of the
novel, Toomer offers a definite role for Blacks in the twentieth century.
Throughout the novel specific textual references, exemplify Toomer's
dependence upon Black heritage in providing the inspiration necessary in
identifying Black culture.  Critic Robert Bone writes:

He attained a universal vision by ignoring race as a local truth, but by
coming face to face with his particular tradition.  His pilgrimage to Georgia
was a conscious attempt to make contact with his hereditary roots in the

Bone explains that Toomer was able to create a general identity by first
inquiring of his own individual history.  The apparent inspiration that the
author experienced as states in the quotation above is apparent in many
scenes.  His identification with his past in Georgia proves the cause of his
artistic experience.  The author of "Fern" writes:

I felt strange as I always do in Georgia, particularly at dusk.  I felt that
things unseen to men were tangibly immediate.  It would not have surprised me
had I had a vision. (Pg.19)

He continues by stating that visions are rather common in Georgia, which
implies that the past is where other writers need to look in order to begin
the search for identity.  This type of imagery runs throughout the work in
instances such as the comfort of the pine needles or of the soil.  All of
these references make clear the importance of Black roots in adding to the
definition of Black culture in Toomer's day.  His perceptions and accounts of
a lifestyle leftover from the days of...

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