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Jean Toomer 's Literary Masterpiece Cane

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Considered as one of the most influential works of the Harlem Renaissance, Jean Toomer’s literary masterpiece Cane offers valuable insight into the notion of African American identity and heritage. Organized in a rather untraditional manner, Toomer’s considerable impressionistic piece utilizes an array of character sketches, stories, and poems in a cyclical manner as a means to weave together a unified theme concerning the impermanence of identity. For this, Cane’s design strategically moves from simple to complex forms of writing, and then back to simple forms again, symbolically alluding to a regional progression from the South to the North, and then back into the South again. In addition to this, and Toomer’s stirring social commentary, such a circular pattern ambiguously represents the difficulty in reconciling the dilemma of being an African American in the United States due to our nation’s history of being unable to procure a solid foundation for black identity. As a result, although its parts remain formally dissimilar and structured in an experimental way, Jean Toomer’s Cane remains a singular unified whole whose connection of theme insists that African American identity is impermanent. Existing as a lyrically haunting work of literature, Cane exemplifies the creativity of both the black community during the 1920’s and the 1930’s, as well as the early modernist movement. Because of this, Toomer’s unconventional form garnered much attention from people throughout
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