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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Regionalism in "Fern"

“I was from the North and suspected of being prejudiced and stuck-up…some folks already thought that I was given to nosing around.”

Jean Toomer shows many of the different divides between Northern and Southern African-Americans through the speaker’s thoughts and interactions with Fern. The speaker is first faced with accusations of “being prejudiced and stuck-up” as if something was wrong which he needed to fix (17). The speaker feels the need to counter these accusations to destroy their judgments; however, the reader sees that his thoughts prove their attitudes correct, for the speaker asks, “What could I do for her” (18). He begins by stating that “love is not a thing like prejudice which can be bettered by changes of town”, implying that differing levels of prejudice exist towards Northern and Southern African-Americans (18). The speaker categorizes Southern white men as “more aggressive” and wanting to make a pretty African-American woman his concubine.

He feels that Northern men, particularly Northern African-American men, can do something for her. However, his own experience fails him, and he must return north with only a story and her full name. What results of this? An upholding of a Southern African-American feeling of dislike towards members of their own race geographically separated results of his failure. For causing her to faint, the speaker “got one or two ugly looks from town men (assumed to be African-American because each white man in the story is explicitly identified as a white man) who’d set themselves up to protect her” (19). Such attitudes, brought about through the speaker’s captivation of Fern, reflect many of the economic, cultural, and social divides between Northern and Southern African-Americans around 1920.

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