Thursday, October 26th, 2017...4:41 pmstruzena

Creating Story instead of Plot in Cane

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Jean Toomer’s Cane is a combination of prose and poetry that illustrate snapshots of time through different character’s point of view. While difficult to categorize, Cane’s structure reminded me of Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. The House on Mango Street is a coming of age novel that is comprised of short memoir pieces that together make up the journey of Esperanza’s adolescence. While the novel does not create its plot through a chronological order of stories, the pieces of prose are connected through common themes and characters to create the story of Esperanza.

Instead of the use of a central character to create a plot, Cane uses a central place and experience of African Americans in the 1920s to create a story. Each prose piece does not connect to tell the overarching plot, but they do connect to share similar narratives of the life for African-Americans in the transitional time of the 1920s. The blurb on the back of the book describes Cane as “an innovative literary work”. The stories of the women, men, and places combine to illustrate perspectives and journeys that are tied together through similar themes, images, and motifs. For example, while each story is a different perspective, many of them share the commonality of incorporating poetry into the prose. Looking at the second arch, “Seventh Street” uses the poem at the beginning to help depict the type of person who resides on Seventh Street, “Bootleggers in silken shirts, / Ballooned, zooming Cadillacs,” (53). The poetry here is a more concrete description of character while the prose juxtaposes the poem with the repetition of questions. “Who set you flowing?” (53) is repeated multiple times throughout the short piece, making the reader think along. By concluding with the same poem again, the poetry poses as an answer to the questions posed in the prose. This relationship between poetry and prose is repeated throughout the first and second arch. Poetry functions as a means to contextualize the questions set up in the prose.


1 Comment

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 7th, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Leah–wow, you are the third student to connect _Cane_ to Cisneros’s work! FYI: the missing term here is short story cycle, I think. When you get to you final sentence, I wonder if you might say that the reverse is true, too? That is, that the prose contextualizes the questions set up in the poetry, as well?

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