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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Bloody Wedge of Shame: Toomer’s look at Urbanization

During Urbanization, blacks were being forced north into the cities due to open jobs and discrimination, but seeing as how the wedge was already present when the poem began, the poem can be said to represent what happens after the blacks arrived. The actions performed upon the wedge are important, especially the result of these actions. The wedge is beaten and driven into the soft rotting wood of Washington, and as it is, the wedge begins to bleed. The harder the wedge is being beaten, the more it bleeds. The more blacks that are forced north the further their reach stretches in the city itself. As the wedge bleeds, “white and whitewash disappear in blood. (Toomer line 15)” Slowly the city is being engulfed in blood, which after the initial beating of the wedge, as far into the “soggy wood of Washington” as it will drive, now symbolizes the black expansion in the city (Toomer line 9). The wedge’s first few strikes are the initial movement north into the city, and the blood is the expansion within the city.

Most of the paragraph is representative of where the blood flows, and how the blood flow affects those areas. The blood begins to flow to the white areas of town by “flowing down the smooth asphalt of Seventh Street in… brick office buildings, theaters, drugstores, restaurants, and cabarets. (Toomer line 16)” The blood is flowing through the city, and intoxicating the citizens. The residents are being taken by prohibition and the bootleggers are taking advantage of the inhabitants of Seventh Street. They have escaped the South only to arrive in a similar situation in the North. The bootleggers are drinking the blood, taking advantage of the effects of black expansion in the city. The blacks need work, and they are willing, in Toomer’s opinion, to lower themselves to the same turmoil that they escaped in the south. Toomer’s display of God is particularly pertinent in this reading because God being a “Nigger God” would be disappointed in the blacks for settling into such a meaningless lifestyle. “He would duck his head in shame and call for the Judgment Day (Toomer line 20-21)” at the sight of such sadness.

Toomer asks the question, “Who set you flowing?” several times throughout the middle paragraph. The inquiry is nearly removed from the other subject matter of the poem which helps point to who the inquirer is. The entity asking the question is the “Nigger God” that will call for “Judgment Day”. The scorn as well as the tone of the poem gives hint to this conclusion. The questions itself, “Who set you flowing?” is a demand, and based upon the repetition of the question, a very serious demand. The question is answered with, “Blood suckers of the War. (Toomer line 13)”, the bootleggers drunk on the power of the black’s expansion. However the expansion, for the blacks, is not a good thing, as God in heaven and Toomer see it.

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