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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Toomer's Fern: Stream of Consciousness and Vacant Thought

“Fern” is written in several large paragraphs. Throughout the story we track the narrator’s stream of consciousness, as he reflects upon Fern’s mysterious behavior. I believe that this stream of consciousness style is used by Toomer to mirror the seeming lack of thought we see in Fern. The narrator is constantly trying to communicate with Fern through her eyes, but never can definitively say whether she understood him. The narrator says, “I tried to tell her with my eyes. I think she understood. (Toomer 19)” The narrator sent the message, but is unsure whether Fern received it. Although the narrator is focused on Fern’s eyes, he never can get past the superficial. The narrator is never able to see into her eyes, he says, “Her eyes, unusually weird and open, held me (Toomer 19)”, as if he does not know why they held him, or why they were weird and open. He never knows deeper than the look. In some of the last lines of the story Toomer uses several ellipses, which I consider to be Fern’s thoughts that the narrator cannot discover. The narrator says, immediately following the ellipses, “Nothing ever came to Fern, not even I. (Toomer 19)” The story is about trying to delve deeper into the mind of such a mysterious woman, and in the end the only thing the narrator definitively learns about Fern is her name.

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