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Monday, February 8, 2010

Jean Toomer's "Fern": The All Seeing Paragraphs

The story of Fern has one major theme throughout the entirety of the story, bearing witness. By using the term bearing witness, I am not merely referring to one’s recap of a story or experience but the actual use of eyes to capture the moment as it is happening.

Before even reading “Fern” I noticed the form of the story, four long paragraphs that constituted the short story. The use of four paragraphs to make up an entire story seemed awkward to me but after reading it, there seemed to be a purpose to the lengthy paragraphs. Throughout the story we are given accounts of the narrator’s stories and interactions with Fern with paragraphs of substantial length. After some thought it seemed that each paragraph’s length was tied to the account given by the narrator, that’s to say that each paragraph was an account of an interaction with Fern through the narrator’s eyes. By using paragraphs of this length the narrator is giving up recap of everything he was witness to. When he interacted with her he gave us everything that occurred with her and around her. He even reflected on the thoughts that went on in his head and even the way others reacted to her beauty. The use of long paragraphs in the story capture the moments with Fern in their entirety and act as eyes to describe everything that occurred in these moments.

I touched upon this idea in class and stuck with me even after discussion. The form of the story and the use of eyes throughout just showed a correlation that I could not overlook.

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