Race and Society in Jean Toomer's Cane

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The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual and literary period of growth promoting a new African American cultural identity in the United States. The decade between 1920 and 1930 was an extremely influential span of time for the Black culture. During these years Blacks were able to come together and form a united group that expressed a desire for enlightenment. This renaissance allowed Blacks to have a uniform voice in a society based upon intellectual growth. The front-runners of this revival were extremely focused on cultural growth through means of intellect, literature, art and music. By using these means of growth, they hoped to destroy the pervading racism and stereotypes suffocating the African American society and yearned for racial and social integration. Many Black writers spoke out during this span of time with books proving their natural humanity and desire for equality.

In 1923 Jean Toomer’s Cane was published by the Boni and Liveright publishing company and received favorable reviews. The book was released during the heart of the Harlem Renaissance and promoted the encouragement and interest in African American culture.* For the next forty years, Cane was not printed and seemed to fade away as an influential book. Many publishers claimed Cane was too insubstantial to reprint and denied the revival of the book. In 1967 the book was finally reprinted. The reprinting came during a time known as The Second Renaissance. During The Harlem Renaissance and The Second Renaissance, both times of revival and rebirth of a culture, Toomer’s novel was printed. Thus showing the significance of the novel during times of resurrection for African American culture. The book explains how other races in the North and in...

... middle of paper ... suppression and attain dreams by just believing. I argue Kabnis should be the face of the south for all blacks because he took control himself and bypassed all social constructs and created his own dream and his own path.

The only way for a restrained person to fulfill their fantasy is to shatter the limitations placed upon them and use their God given talents to conceive this dream. Jean Toomer is portraying himself through Ralph Kabnis. Toomer had a vision where his art would dominate the prejudices and societal limits undermining the inner talents each and every person has no matter the race. The Harlem Renaissance, with assistance from Cane, allowed African Americans to conquer the social construct placed upon their race and achieve success by reveling their talents.

Works Cited

Toomer, Jean. Cane. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988.
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