Lessons in Jean Toomer's Cane

Essay by seazonallCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 2008

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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...