Difference and Perspective

“But he done showed me where it’s de thought dat makes de difference in ages. If people thinks de same they can make it all right.”

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006), 115.

Division by observable factors (in this case, age) are often not a matter of physical, definite differences but rather by intangible differences in something like perspective. Overcoming these differences is a matter of shifting one’s viewpoint, and is therefore within one’s power. This may be true of age, but what about other, seemingly more rigid categories of division (class, gender, race, etc)?

division in “Their Eyes”

“But nobody put anything on the seat of Logan’s wagon to make it ride glorious on the way to his house. It was a lonesome place like a stump in the middle of the woods where nobody had ever been. The house was absent of flavor, too. But anyhow Janie went on inside to wait for love to begin.” At the beginning of Chapter 3

I believe this passage further emphasizes the divide between Janie and Logan, and Janie’s actions versus her feelings are also divided. She was quarrelling with herself if she truly loved Logan, and this passage happens right after they got married. Words like ‘nobody,’ ‘lonesome,’ and ‘absent’ all jump out as being these sad, sorrow words, in strict contrast to marriage. These words reflect Janie’s thoughts, yet she’s trying to convince herself that she’ll love Logan, or learn to love him.

Divisions among races in “There eyes were watching God”

“She was borned in the slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam looked lak uh mighty fine thing tuh her. Dat’s what she wanted for me-don’t keer whut it cost.”

This quote shows through the eyes of Nanny the division among races during the time which the novel was set due to slavery. It shows how African Americans were set to work all day and not rest while members of the white race would relax and quote on quote sit on porches.

Perception and Class

“They know mo’ ’bout yuh than you do yo’ self.  An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.  They done ‘heard’ ’bout you just what they hope done happened.” (37)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2013.

I think this quote is interesting in particular because it kind of reads like commentary that expands beyond just the conversation here.

The Paradox of Class

“The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe’s positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him. They bowed down to him rather, because he was all of these things, and then again he was all of these things because the town bowed down.” (Hurston 50)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2013.

This passage stood out to me because it demonstrated how the social division between classes in American society is not truly an inherent superiority of one class over another, but rather, an artificial construction used by the upper classes to exploit the lower classes. The town isn’t bowing to Joe because he is actually “better” than them, but because they fear the repercussions of standing against someone who has more material wealth than them–proving how the class system in America is one based on abuse and exploitation. The upper class’ power stems purely from fear and oppression, not from any real difference in the people who inhabit those classes.

The power of nature in ‘Their Eyes were Watching God’

“The wind came back with triple fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God,” (Hurston).

Janie and Tea Cake stay near the lake despite numerous signs of an impending storm. The storm symbolically cuts out the light and therefore their vision, acting as but one manifestation of God’s supreme power. That God was the apparent catalyst to this darkness explains how their eyes watching dark is, by proxy, their eyes watching God.

Class Divisions and Shame

“Befo’ us got married Ah made up mah mind not tuh let you see no commonness in me. When Ah git mad habits on, Ah’d go off and keep it out yo’ sight. ‘Tain’t mah notion tuh drag you dwon wid me.” (Hurston 124)

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2013.

Even between Tea Cake and Janie, we see divisions, specifically rooted in class. I was surprised in this moment because I did not expect shame and self-consciousness to be the motive of Tea Cakes actions. Whereas he appears to encourage Janie’s freedom, such as by teaching her chess, there is still is a sense of tension within their relationship. Like the previous men, Tea Cake also has a fragile sense of pride. Yet, his insecurity comes from his working class experiences and lack of wealth. I feel like this tension will only grow into deeper conflict between him and Janie.

Division = Desire For Similarities

“She was borned in the slavery time when folks, dat is black folks, didn’t sit down anytime dey felt lak it. So sittin’ on porches lak de white madam looked lak uh mighty fine thing tuh her. Dat’s what she wanted for me-don’t keer whut it cost.” (114)

Hurston, Zora Neale, et al. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2013, 114.

Slavery forced a division between black and white people. Black people were on their feet all day working, while white people were able to sit and watch. This division of whites and blacks in turn fueled the desires of some black people (represented in the text by Nanny) to obtain the luxury to relax that the white people were entitled to. Essentially, division strengthened a desire for likeness.

Emergence of Culture and Community

“Jazz songs and love, thrusting unconscious rhythms, black reddish blood into the white and whitewashed wood of Washington,” (53).

Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: Liveright, 2011.

Seventh street is the representation of black culture and the black community. This all began to emerge when the migration from the South to the North happened, which created these communities and really brought life to them. Today we can still see these communities and their influence on society.

Religious Linkage in “Cane”

“Is that th way youall sit on sisters up North?”

“In the Church I used to go to no one ever shouted—”

Cane, Jean Toomer,

The sharing of sentiment across geography and language. Linkage can be a uniting force, but there is also an ambiguous connection in opposition.

A Link to the Past

I sat beside her through the night. I saw the dawn steal over Washington. The Capitol dome looked like a gray ghost ship drifting in from sea. Avey’s face was pale, and her eyes were heavy. She did not have the gray crimson-splashed beauty of the dawn. I hated to wake her. Orphan-woman… (88)

Toomer, Jean. Cane. Liveright, New York, 1923. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015000252448&view=1up&seq=8

The narrator in the chapter “Avey” meets up again with Avey after five years since their last interaction. The narrator made note of how Avey garnered the attention of various men during his time in Washington, D.C. Here, many of the men who strived for her attention had now either forgotten or dismissed her (including Ned). Her appearance here is representative of the newfound realization the narrator has of her. He has grown and she is lost, but they somehow still came across each other.

Linkage in Cane

“Night winds in Georgia are vagrant poets, whispering. Kabnis, against his will, lets a book slip down and listens to them. The warm whiteness of his bed, the lamp-light, do not protect him form the weird chill of their song: White man’s land.

Toomer, Jean. Cane, 67

This line from the novel can be interpreted as a linkage to the real world’s racial issues of its time. While Toomer rejects his novel as a presentation of a black literary work, there is linkage between what he writes to the experience of a black person living in America during that time period.

Linkage of “Love”

“Well, never matter. You matter. I’d like to know you whom I look at. Know, not love.” (106)

Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: Liveright, 2011.

This message from Paul in “Bona and Paul”, reveals how the experience of loving someone and knowing someone are mutually exclusive. In many of the other stories, such as “Karintha” and and “Fern”, men idolize and claim to “love” the women, though the women remain enigmatic and their characters feel vacant in the story. None of the men truly desire to know these women, and once the women do express themselves, the men turn hateful and scorn them. Paul’s outlook is a breach in this theme as he wants to know Bona, which in turn is seemingly the most true way to connect. The sense that he will not know Bona overwhelms Paul and since he is unable to truly know her, she disappears. The inability to know one another and want to do so organically is why the women in the stories suffer such cruel fates.

Linkage in Cane

“We sat there holding hands. Our palms were soft and warm against each other. Our fingers were not tight she would not let them be.”

Toomer, Jean. Cane, 60

I found this recurring idea of holding hands interesting as it seemed to be an accurate representation of their relationship. The narrator seems to have very intense feelings about Avey but she appears very closed off. It’s as if there was a wall standing between them. In the end just like their hand holding the relationship ends up being a very superficial and not very tight.

Women in “Cane”

“There was nothing he didn’t know when it came to women” (58).

Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: Liveright, 2011.

There seems to be this hyper-fixation on women. It is seen in “Karintha”, “Carma” and “Fern”. Women are mysterious, sexual figures, and their emotions and experiences isn’t truly explained only through the view of the male narrators.

[Running from] Linkage

“Oh, no, I wont let that emotion come up in me. Stay down. Stay down, I tell you” (114).

Jean Toomer, Cane. Boni & Liveright, 1923, pg. 114.

As a brief side note, I must say that reading through the commonplace entries posted thus far, I find it interesting that we have interpreted “linkage” differently.

In this excerpt, I see a man whose deep-rooted racial prejudice is soon to get the best of him. Here, Kabnis fights with the urge to express his racism in a manner which older members of his family may exact naturally. Above the urge to fight his own prejudiced impulses, he fights with the man that he hopes to never be linked with; likely running from the backwards thinking of his upbringing.

November Cotton Flower

“Even the preacher, who caught her at mischief, told
himself that she was as innocently lovely as a
November cotton flower” (Toomer 2).

Toomer, Jean. “Cane. with a Foreword by Waldo Frank.” HathiTrust, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015000252448?urlappend=%3Bseq.

When discussing linkages in this novel this is one you cannot pass up if you notice it. In the opening part of the novel “Karintha,” the girl is compared to a “November cotton flower” which based on the context clues is a delicate and beautiful thing. Moving into part 3 which is titled “November Cotton Flowers”. This poem has a very eerie note to it and is almost ugly which contrasts what we were earlier told about the cotton flowers, but in the conclusion of the poem, the beauty of them is confirmed. Both of these stories connect in more ways than the simply repeated mention of these “November Cotton Flowers” because they are both describing these things/people that are beautiful and yet the stories are eerie and contrasting to this idea with mentions of death and smoke.

Linkage in Toomer’s Collection of Short Stories

“He sees Art, curiously. Art is a purple fluid, carbon-charged, that effervesces beside him. He loves art. But is it not queer, this pale purple facsimile of a red-blooded Norwegian friend of his? Perhaps for some reason, white skins are not supposed to live at night.” Cane, p. 99

I found the “Bona and Paul” story to be a contemplation on the validity of multicultural fraternity and solidarity, mostly because (a) it follows a black man named Paul and also features his white friend, a man named Art & (b) on the intermission-esque page that follows the story’s ending says “to Waldo Frank”, a white man who Toomer shared a friendship with. The real-world parallels to these two men in the story seem obvious enough to me, and the constant mingling of different races and cultures throughout the book (whether they be from the perspective of a white woman or a black man) lends credibility to the idea that multiculturalism is what links all of these stories together.

Jean Toomer’s, Cane, Linkage

“Wind is in the cane. Come along. Cane leaves swaying, rusty with talk, Scratching choruses above the guinea’s squawk, Wind is in the cane. Come along” (Toomer, 11).

Toomer, Jean. Cane. Dover Publications, Inc., 2019.

Jean Toomer opens up many of his chapters with a small poem containing information about the following chapter. However, I noticed how when Toomer does open his chapters with these small poems, there is a lot of repetition each time he does this. For example, ‘Come along’ and ‘Wind is in the Cane’  is repeated two times in this short poem and if we look at other poems before the start of new chapters, we see similar types of repetition.

Morality in “The Maltese Falcon”

“Spade send tenderly: ‘You angel! Well, if you get a good break you’ll be out of San Quentin in twenty years and you can come back to me then.’ […] He was pale. He said tenderly: ‘I hope to Christ they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck.'”

Hammett, Dashiell. “XX: If They Hang You.” The Maltese Falcon, Vintage Books, 1972, pp. 114–115.

Despite his personal feelings for Brigid, Spade does the right thing and turns her in for the murder. He’s fighting inside of himself on it, but he knows that it is the moral and right thing to do. In the world of crime, and particularly with all the shady characters he’s interacted with in the novel, Spade is the moral man, and he does what must be done. Particularly, when he is pale and speaking tenderly, he’s showing emotion when he mostly hasn’t throughout the novel. Despite being a fairly stoic man, he is hurt here. But he must do it.