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Blood Burning Moon B Jean Toomer Essay

1549 words - 6 pages

“Red nigger moon. Sinner! Blood-burning moon. Sinner! Come out that fact’ry door” (Toomer 652). This moon blazing scarlet in the night sky certainly sets the tone for Jean Toomer’s story, “Blood-Burning Moon.” Not only does it foreshadow the violence that darkens his tale, but it also symbolizes the irresistible forces that tug at the lives of our three main characters, pushing and pulling on the chords of racial inequality that bind the nation. The moral vacuum left by the First World War compelled such writers as Toomer to focus on the individual’s search for meaning in a purposeless society; but this task was made even more complex by the racial tensions that continued to broil beneath the surface of every man’s polite expression. Examining a single situation from three different perspectives, Toomer uses vivid imagery, shifting narration, and characterization to portray the power struggle that plagues society with fear and uncertainty in the early 1900s; by presenting a white man, a black man, and a black woman as the victims of a vicious paradigm shift, Toomer actually proves each person’s power to be an illusion in an attempt to weaken racial and gender barriers.
Acting as a powerful force in the Harlem Renaissance movement, Toomer centers this particular story on the themes of racism, social terrorism, and the search for racial identity in a shaken world. His distinct pride in African American culture is revealed by frequent references to African spirituals and other cultural aspects throughout the narration. In fact, the spiritual refrain from which the story derives its name is used in three different places in this short story. Near the beginning of the tale, Toomer paints a colorful picture that allows the reader a glimpse into the unique traditions of the African people. He describes a singular society, separated from the white community and living in a place called “factory town” (652). Before a flaming stove, David Georgia sits with the other men of the town gathered around him. Such a place was a common feature of the black community; whether it be a porch or a stove, these cultural hubs draw the men together with “tales about the white folks, about moonshining and cotton picking, and about sweet nigger gals” (652). These insights into the lives of African Americans carry an affectionate and familiar tone that place Toomer firmly within the Harlem Renaissance movement.
Launching his first perspective with rich description and powerful metaphor, Toomer describes Louisa, the catalyst of his story, in vivid detail: “Her skin was the color of oak leaves on young trees in fall…And her singing had the low murmur of winds in fig trees” (651). These similes not only enrich Louisa’s character, but also provide symbols for what her heart is seeking: freedom and persuasion. Just as the wind travels where it will and stirs the leaves of the great oaks, Louisa sets free her own breeze of seduction and watches with satisfaction as it sways the...

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