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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Unveiling of Racial Boundaries in Jean Toomer's "Fern"

Throughout the story of “Fern”, the issue of race, while prevalent throughout, remains ambiguous and uncertain. It was after reading Donald Hall’s chapter on Race Analysis from his book titled Literary and Cultural Theory that the issue of race took on a distinct connotation. The narrator of the story, while presumably a black man, casts himself in an array of lights among his quest for love. Fern is the girl of his dreams, and for the narrator “love is not a thing like prejudice which can be bettered by the changes of town” (18). Here he recognizes that he is unable to escape the emotional and psychological torment of Fern. Still, coming at a time of much disparity and racial hatred, our narrator seems to be unaffected by this in anyway. As previously stated, the narrator casts and portrays himself to be a black man throughout much of the story. But it comes towards the latter half that the narrator rises above racial boundaries and that of the Georgia sky. “In fact, there was talk of making me leave town” he says, “but they never did. They kept a watch out for me, though. Shortly after, I came back North” (19). Almost in a subconscious manner, the narrator acknowledges the racial tension within the town and what betterment is thought to come from segregation. He is a black man in the South, risking his life and freedom for the one thing he idolizes, Fern. This signifies a type of ignorance and superiority, not only over the individuals watching Fern, but also, race and segregation as a whole. Painting himself as a free individual, the narrator appears to have traveled from the North to the South in search of finding Fern. Yet, it was after feeling the eyes of the southerners that he decided to go back North. Perhaps fearing the possibility of slavery or racial oppression, the narrator seems to become aware of his unwelcoming persona. It seems as if his imagination had taken over, and in a sense, worn a veil of imaginary love that blurred and lost sight of all racial boundaries. It was ultimately the talk of the town and those threatening his liberty that caused for the veil to be dropped. Thus, the narrator becomes lost in idolized visions of love, and in doing so, gains an understanding for racial boundaries. Ultimately, the narrator trusts in his own philosophy that prejudice can be bettered by the changes of the town.

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