Paper 3 Final Draft

The cultural strength and spirit that toomer exposed

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The cultural strength and spirit that Toomer exposed himself to in the South had a clear impact on the way Toomer wrote Cane , and according to Davis, it is present throughout the entire novel. In contrast, Foley believes that Toomer’s socioeconomic status ultimately impacted Cane the greatest. Jean Toomer grew up “among Washington’s aristocrats of color” because of his grandfather (Foley 320). Pinckney Pinchback was a very prominent figure in the African American community. As described in Byrd and Gates introduction, he was a “captain in the second regiment of Louisiana’s Native Guard…the first black lieutenant governor of Louisiana…even served as the Acting Governor” (xxii-xxiii). But, his grandfather’s social status wasn’t the only reason for the influence on Toomer. Compared to all the other cities in the country, D.C. “was the center of the black aristocracy” (qtd. in Foley 315). Although the African Americans owned a fair amount of money, they did not fit into a racial group. The majority of the aristocracy was light- skinned, so physically they were already separated from the whites and the darker African Americans. Furthermore, the white population did not acknowledge the amount of wealth this elite group had, and the elite African Americans chose not to associate with the
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5 Jung middle-class African Americans (Foley 317). Cane reflects these social and racial difficulties that Toomer experienced. Barbara Foley’s main argument centers on the idea that class is generally taken out of critics’ discussion of Cane . She finds this to be problematic: “I shall stress here… an issue that is often obscured in discussions of Toomer’s attitudes toward and conceptions of race – namely, the imprint left by his consciousness of class” (Foley 314). Unlike other critics, she believes that Toomer’s experiences among this elite crowd had a large impact on his writings and how they portray racial issues. Foley argues that Toomer was largely influenced because he accepted his socioeconomic status to be part of who he was. He called his class “my aristocracy” (Foley 323). But the key point in her argument is how Toomer’s lifestyle affected Cane. She describes how the second section of Toomer’s novel represents the racial issues surrounding the elite society in which he grew up. She uses “Bona and Paul” as one example of this point, and states it “gains a crucial historical dimension when read as commentary…on the increasing segregation of public facilities in the world in which Toomer attained maturity” (Foley 331). The part of the story she focuses on is when Paul and Bona try to get into a club in Chicago. Paul tries to fight against segregation in this particular story as he tells the doorman that he is not distinguishing between black and white faces by using a metaphor to petals, “white faces are petals of roses. That dark faces are petals of dusk. I am going out and gather petals” (Toomer 78).
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