Search Of Identity In Jean Toomer's Cane To Black Culture

1463 Words 6 Pages
As an author of the Harlem Renaissance, Jean Toomer wrote for an audience composed of more than his peers. With Cane (Toomer, 1923), he reached for a black audience in search of identity. Influenced by classical poets William Blake and Walt Whitman, “stream-of-consciousness” novelist James Joyce, and novelist Sherwood Anderson’s short story collection, Winesburg, Ohio (1919), Cane also addresses a white audience receptive to the minority and mixed races that culturalist Onita Estes-Hicks refers to as “buried cultures,” as a way of fostering and supporting group identity. It is also highly likely that Toomer wrote for himself, as a way of examining his own understanding of race and identity complexities.
The value of Cane to black studies lies in its ethnographic approach to documentation of black life during a period of significant social, political, economic, and migratory transition. This collection of data supports and asserts black identity. Choosing to document a specific contemporary community, in its own language, with knowledge of its history, confronts the ability of prevailing academic and political systems to stand in denial and deprecation of black humanity. That Toomer chose to frame his documentation in lyrical prose allows his composition to do the work of art – challenge, provoke,
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This is especially apparent in the second section of the book where Cane opens a view of black life, functionally corrupted by the Great Migration, by looking at both sides of the social equation that moves around the paternalistic restrictions of the freedom and responsibilities of those who are subordinate, for “their own

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