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Monday, February 8, 2010

Black, White, & Mixed Race: The Differences of Culture in "Fern"

I wanted to further discuss the topic which I brought up in the class the other day about the cultural representations that and cross-cultural interactions that Toomer brings about within “Fern.” The narrator makes a rather interesting claim when he says “That the sexes were made to mate is the practice of the South. Particularly, black folks were made to mate. And it is black folks who I have been talking about thus Far” (Toomer 17). By mentioning the practice of sexual intercourse within “black folks” of the South, the narrator addresses the cultural history of the area, in which slaves were shipped to the area and expected to work and reproduce more slaves to work. It seems as if Toomer is making the statement that this way of life has stuck with the people and become a part of their culture, at least in the South. It is interesting to note the differences that location has on cultural views, which is brought about when the narrator states, “I was from the North and suspected of being prejudiced and stuck-up,” showing that even between peoples of the same race, there is still an inability to fully connect and relate to one another (Toomer 17). This then brings us to the next interesting point within the story, the complete alienation of Fernie May Rosen who is mixed race, having features described as “… creamy brown color of her upper lip… [and] her nose was aquiline, Semitic” (Toomer 16). Throughout the course of the narration, it is mentioned several times that no one really knows much about Fern and everybody, primarily black males, has taken the liberty and tried to understand her. Unfortunately, nobody seems able to do so, and Fern continues to be alienated from society because she fits in neither with the culture of the South or the stereotypically conservatives of the North. I was particularly intrigued by this concept because within the other poems of Cane, Toomer addresses cultural conflicts and differences between Blacks and Whites, but this poem discusses what happens when there is a literal mixture of the two races.

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