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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Race Analysis of Fern: The Jewish Cantor

A point that I found interesting in Fern was the exaltation of the Jew. Why would Toomer exalt another race? The narrator refers to the beauty of Fern’s Semitic nose. The narrator mentions the Jewish cantor numerous times throughout the piece, all in reference to his being focused on Fern and either forgetting their troubles or trivializing them. The Jews are in a similar situation to African Americans in that they are not the dominant race in America. In exalting another lesser race through Fern, Toomer exalts Fern and the race as a whole. The Jewish cantor’s singing mirrors the situations that the narrator experiences with Fern. His first sight of Fern makes him forget his struggles, much in the same way the words of the cantor trivializes the narrator’s problems. The cantor then causes the narrator to be drawn to Fern. The final mention of the cantor comes after the narrator presents the illusion of sex with Fern. The cantor’s voice cracks. The illusion of the perfection of Fern is shattered. This shatters any illusion of the lesser races being exalted above the dominant race.

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