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WR150 Portfolio

The entire structure of cane was inspired by waldo

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as a whole. The entire structure of Cane was inspired by Waldo Frank’s novel City Block and to some extent, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. While Davis and Foley do offer possible influences, they don’t pay attention to the most important one. The relationships that Toomer acquired during his writing career greatly impacted Cane and the overall interpretation of its theme and text. Before diving into the separate texts, it is necessary to establish background information on Toomer, specifically, his living environment when he wrote Cane, his socioeconomic status and the relationships that he had with other writers. Toomer was originally born in Washington D.C., although his parents were born in Georgia. Shortly after, Toomer moved to New York to live with his grandparents and his mother. After his mother died in 1909, Toomer went back to Washington to live with his uncle. For the following six years, Toomer attended multiple universities and failed to complete his studies at all of them. Much of his writing began during 1918 when Toomer lived in New York, Milwaukee and Chicago. He went back and forth between living in New York, and Washington. But in 1921, Jean Toomer visited Georgia for three months to serve as an acting principal at a school. He ultimately returned to New York by the time he completed writing Cane (445-447).
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74 According to Davis, the brief time period that Toomer lived in the South was the most influential for him and Cane . As Davis describes, “The event that provoked Toomer’s emergence as an artist…was the period of three months in 1921 which Toomer spent in Georgia” (Davis 250). Toomer’s experience in the South contrasted immensely with his experience in the North. Aside from the fact that the North was urban and the South was rural, the atmospheres of the two regions were also different. In the Georgia, there was a physical and spiritual aspect that Toomer was drawn to. He notes, “‘the setting was crude in a way, but strangely rich and beautiful’” (Davis 250). But furthermore, “the artist was moved by the spirituals sung…he was touched…by the sense that they represented a dying folk-spirit” (Davis 250). As Davis points out in his essay, Toomer was attracted to these qualities of the South: the land, the spirit, and what they both represented to the African Americans. This attraction is what guided Toomer in writing Cane . Davis further argues how the South that Toomer creates, both in his mind and in the text of Cane , exemplifies a consciousness of the narrator in the particular story. In the “Song of the Son”, this consciousness is a “sophisticated intelligence yearning for completion…and finding the means for achieving [this] in contact with the South and the newly discovered black culture” (Davis 255). But in the case of “Karintha” and “Carma”, the consciousness “is responsible for the sympathy and understanding expressed” by these two characters (Davis 255). Davis is arguing that the context of the South helps us understand the real emotions and experiences of Toomer’s characters. Davis goes further
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