Over time, it has become relatively easy, almost second nature, for people to devise strict societal barriers and categorize people, cultures, and ideas into separate boxes. In Jean Toomer’s “Portrait in Georgia”, however, this is exceptionally challenging for the reader to do so. With his poetic paintbrush, Toomer describes a beautiful woman, but he intentionally blurs the racial lines of black and white in order to illustrate an underlying theme concerning the deep-rooted problems of racism in America. To help convey this theme, Toomer utilizes the literary tool of imagery, and he does so masterfully. Each image is meticulously placed and organized to provide the most powerful impact possible. While certain images emphasize the beauty and grandeur of a woman, others bring up unbelievably violent, gory, and horrific images of death associated with the treatment of African Americans during the time of Jim Crow Laws. Overall, Toomer’s use of imagery brings “Portrait in Georgia” to life, grabs the reader’s attention, successfully demonstrates an extremely powerful message, and causes society’s darker parts to be questioned.
Toomer’s placement and choice of imagery is crucial in establishing what he wants the audience to see; if he had used different imagery, his poem would not be interpreted in the same way. For example, the first line of his poem states, “Hair -- braided chestnut” (Toomer 1). By describing hair as “braided chestnut”, rather than simply saying “brown”, the