Racial and Gender Conflict:
According to Toomer, it's only Natural.
There are two real conflicts in Jean Toomer's "Blood-Burning Moon." The first is racial, which can be referenced in the very first sentence, and the second is a gender conflict, that subtly unfolds with the main characters' development. In this essay, I will show how Toomer uses vivid descriptions and comparisons of nature to establish these conflicts, and also to offer an explanation of their origin. He writes to argue that these roles, like the earth, are natural and therefore irrefutable. A close reading of the opening paragraph will reveal the sharp contrast between white and black, as it is described in a metaphor of wood and stone.
It can be argued that the entire story unfolds and closes in the first sentence alone. "Up from the skeleton stone walls, up from the rotting floor boards and the solid hand-hewn beams of oak of the pre-war cotton factory, dusk came" (1504). Two opposing materials collide; the stone walls meet the wooden floorboards, and day comes to an end. Analogically, this can be read as the fate and demise of Toomer's two male characters, Bob Stone and Tom Burwell. Words like `skeleton' and `rotting' offer an obvious premonition to death--and thinking on a deeper level, Toomer introduces the textile differences between wood and stone. While both are a part of nature, their substance couldn't be more opposite. This contrast will ultimately unfold into a greater conflict between white and black people.
Bob Stone is a white man; he is cold, flinty and unmoving. He possessively sees the Negro community as inferior--he owns them and they have no life beyond that.
He passed the house with its huge open hearth which, in the days of slavery, was the plantation cookery. He saw Louisa bent over that hearth. He went in as a master should and took her. Direct, honest, bold. ... She was worth it. Beautiful Nigger gal. Why nigger? Why not, just gal? No, it was because she was a nigger that he went to her. (1507)
When Toomer writes of Stone, the entire tone changes. He writes in the analytical and possessive inner monologue of a `white man', which is formal and calculating. All focus is removed from the environment, and devoted to the mind of Bob as he deliberates his relationship with Louisa. "He was going to see Louisa to-night, and love her. She was lovely--in her way. Nigger way. What way was that? Damned if he knew. Must know" (1507). Bob is confused by his feelings for Louisa, and the choppiness of his thoughts comes out in Toomer's writing.
Bob loves Louisa, but doesn't understand her. Although, given the way Toomer has structured the story, how can he be blamed? Bob has a mind of stone, and Negro's are described as wooden, and more connected to the earth. In other words, the moon, trees, and wilderness that is familiar and welcome to the Negroes, is interpreted as `gloom' in Bob's mind. This hints to the irreconcilable differences between...