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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Love, Race, and Prejudice in Toomer's "Fern"

Until the end of the first paragraph when the narrator reveals that he has been referring to black men’s pursuit of Fern, Fern’s race as well as her culture remain ambiguous and unimportant. Thereafter the narrator states that “[a]nyone, of course, could see her, could see her eyes.”( 17) This serves to nullify the importance of race when observing Fern, similar to the subverting of race that is constituted by the narrator’s claim “[l]ike her face, the whole countryside seemed to flow into her eyes.”(17) Along with the narrator’s outright statement that he is referring to black men’s pursuit of Fern, the revelation that “whole countryside” flowed into her eyes reveals Fern’s oblivious of race when selecting a suitor.
An analogy that the narrator establishes is on page 18 when he claims “that love is not a thing like prejudice which can be bettered by changes of town.” Like love, race is not a thing like prejudice which can bettered by changes of town, revealing an insight into Fern’s world. This shows that Fern is oblivious to the implications that her race will have on her happiness. The fact that her eye’s “desire nothing” demonstrates the limitations that Fern’s race has on her pursuit of happiness. When walking with the narrator Fern asks “[d]oesn’t it make you mad? […] she meant the row of petty gossiping people[…]she meant the world.”(19) This reveals the contempt Fern has for her society that has structured value of race. Thus, through the analogy that associates love and race as things that can’t be bettered by changes of town, the narrator reveals Fern’s devaluation of the implications race. Ultimately it is Fern’s obliviousness to race that leaves her taking the countryside into her eyes; her eyes that have and see no racial implications whatsoever. Through the narrator’s elaboration of the importance of race that seems to have no insinuations for Fern, we’re able to see what Fern can’t see, that race can’t be bettered by a change of town.

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