Lessons In Jean Toomer's Cane Essay

1434 words - 6 pages

Lessons in Jean Toomer's CaneJean Toomer's Cane is a remarkably written, yet incredibly underrated, novel that offers a presentation of life during the Great Migration. The novel contains many stories within it, all of which deliver an aspect of insight into the period, presenting the "whole circle of the black experience" (Caldeira 544). Two such stories contained within the novel are Karintha and Becky. In the reports given about these two different women Toomer makes use of potent imagery and symbolism including, but not limited to, the surroundings and the nomenclature of the characters. A primary example of this sits in the novel's title, Cane, which is an allusion to sugar cane and its impact on the lives of the people represented in the novel. Much can be ascertained through analyses of the community environment however, while it is less obvious, the meat of the symbolism and imagery is given to the individuals and represented in their assigned names and immediate surroundings.The character, Karintha is a very beautiful child. "Men had always wanted her, this Karintha, even as a child, Karintha carrying beauty, perfect as dusk when the sun goes down" (Toomer 1). Karintha is introduced to sexual intercourse at an early age as she bears witness to the physical relationship that her parents have. This is one factor that leads to the promiscuity of the character. In examining Karintha it is important to take note of the name that tumor assigns her. Although the spellings are dissimilar, the phonetic similarities between her name and the books of the Bible denoted Corinthians should not go unnoticed. Karintha lives "outside Christian morality" (Krasny 42) and this makes the relationship between her name and the Bible even more interesting.As it relates to marital and sexual relationships 1 Corinthians, in the Holy Bible, addresses sexual immorality. Toomer makes it clear that Karintha is a promiscuous character and this adds to the importance of Karintha's sexual nature. In the story the name assigned to the central character is not the only biblically influenced symbol. Also, in the story is mention of a preacher. "Even the preacher, who caught her at her mischief, told himself that she was as innocently lovely as a November cotton flower" (Toomer 1). The preacher is only mentioned in one line of the story and Toomer does not build him or her into a substantial character, but the mention of him still bears importance. The job of a preacher is that of a teacher, yet to witness, but dismiss Karintha doing wrong is to neglect the duties of being a preacher. This idea of the neglectful preacher also relates to the book of the Bible, 1 Corinthians, as this portion of the Bible also addresses problems in the church. The novel is a great depiction of life in the Black South during the time and by mentioning the preacher Toomer is addressing the need of a strong church in the community so that children may have a figurehead to promote good living.Jean...

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