Use of Imagery in Jean Toomer's Cane Essay

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Use of Imagery in Jean Toomer's Cane

Dusk. It is that darker side of twilight when the sun has just set, but the moon has yet to take full charge. It is a time of mergings, of vagueness and ambiguity, when an end and a beginning change places. The sun steps aside and lets the moon and stars take over for a while. As the most pervasive image in the first section of Jean Toomer's Cane, it is the time of day when "[t]he sky, lazily disdaining to pursue/The setting sun, too indolent to hold/ A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,/Passively darkens" ("Georgia Dusk," 15). It is also a reflection of the souls of the characters, like Karintha, "perfect as dusk when the sun goes down" (3). Dusk and its smoky, dreamlike
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In keeping with the vision of modernism Toomer concentrated greatly on stretching the boundaries of language and forging new imagistic representations of political and societal convictions. However, his use of imagery seems in pointed contrast to many of his white contemporaries. For Toomer in Cane, dusk is most importantly an image of fusion, of something ending and beginning simultaneously in a way difficult to perceive: as the narrator of "Fern" meditates, "Dusk, suggesting the almost imperceptible procession of giant trees, settled with a purple haze about the cane. I felt strange, as I always do in Georgia, particularly at dusk. I felt that things unseen to men were tangible immediate. It would not have surprised me had I had a vision" (19). How strikingly modern is this image, yet how different from a similar representation in Yeats' "Into the Twilight" where the same time of day represents inspiration and imagination: "Laugh heart again in the gray twilight,/Sigh, heart, again in the dew of the morn" (141, lines 3-4). Or think of the obvious relation to Eliot's "[l]et us go then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table" from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (482, lines 1-3). Here the twilight, or dusk, is a suffocating time reminiscent of impending death. Toomer's dusk is of a completely different time and place and
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