Thursday, October 26th, 2017...8:56 pmserlemip

What is Cane?

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Cane has a developing plot, expressed through various characters that don’t interact and through modernist poems. The motifs incorporated bind the different characters’ stories together, making this book more connected and complete than a series of short stories or a collection of poems.

Initially, the progression of “Karintha” is confusing without a clear timeline of events. However, in “Blood-Burning Moon,” the timeline is more complete, showing plot development. Additionally, the reader gets the perspective of two male characters, which foreshadows the second part of the book and perhaps the final culmination of motifs at the end. I believe that in the end a message will come through clearly that will impress upon the reader an urgency to act.

Cane is an artistic piece that portrays, in a new and modern way, racial and gender oppression in the South and self-identity. I do not consider it to be a traditional novel, because I don’t want to accidentally subject it to any form of a rigid template. Cane is more of a fluid story that is told through many character’s experiences, and through varied formats of writing. I am not sure that there is just one word that I would feel comfortable using to describe this book. Toomer relays his message in a brilliantly unique and bold fashion, perhaps as a way to grab his readers attention and show them a problem that they may be facing in an entirely new light, maybe in a way with which they can connect better.


  •   Charlotte Hayden
    October 27th, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Really good categorization of Cane. I agree that Cane could easily come across as a collection of short stories and poems, unconnected to each other, but that (as you point out) Toomer connects them using shared experiences. I also appreciate that you do not want to restrict the book to any “rigid template” — I think it is wise to approach this book with no preconceptions or expectations.

  • I think you’re right to identify the fluidity of both the story’s narrative content as well as the story’s formal structure. Although the stories differ in the way they are told and what aspects of the stories are made clear/left unclear (as you point out here in regards to the timelines of Karintha and Blood-Burning Moon), there is a fluidity in the work as a whole that connects the stories to offer a more complete picture.

  • Cane is interesting in the way that the characters themselves do not interact, yet their stories are all interconnected through themes. I totally agree, these stories are woven together but not through character relationships, it is through shared experiences, as you state. I think that this relationship highlights the strength in the African American experience and explores the idea of nationality and connectivity through the lack of direct character relationships.

  • I really like your comment about not wanting to subject Cane under a specific category. In my music classes, we are discussing the canon and how institutions like Dickinson are so prone to using/following it. I think literature (and music) outside of the canon is necessary because it teaches us how to be better citizens in this world, connecting with ideas and traditions that are not only Western, or European, or White.

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 7th, 2017 at 2:18 am

    Phoebe–I’m with all of your commenters in appreciating this post. It strikes me that your reasoned resistance to classifying _Cane_ as a “traditional novel” speaks to the very narrowness of a certain understanding of the novel form…

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