Friday, January 30, 2009

The Reapers

This Poem is hard to get a handle on because it is so short and straightforward. It uses very powerful imagery and emotion. It provides a very vivid scene including sight and sound. At one point the poem describes the sound of steel on stones as the reapers sharpen their scythes to mow, and then a few lines later describes silence as they swing their scythes through the weeds and grass. The poem invokes sight when describing black reapers, black horses, and the blood-stained blade. The poem also deals a lot with action, power, and physicality. It describes sharpening the blades, swinging blades, horses DRIVING a mower through the weeds, a field rat being startled as he is cut through, squeeling and bleeding, the rat's belly being close to the ground. The scene is so dramatic and deals with so many feelings and senses, but is written in a way that is so cold and emotionless. The reapers just keep on swinging their blades and go on working.
I found it interesting that the reapers and the horses, who were doing all of the work in the poem, (which would probably not be considered very prestigious jobs) were both black. This could be interpreted as a racial theme. I am wondering when this poem was written. I believe the publication of the book was after the era of the progressives and muckrackers, but I thought this poem could have been interpreted as a story of the plight of the working man in this era and how workers seemed to be treated as mere machines without feeling or emotion who would keep working in the name of production no matter what happened. Maybe this was a call for more humane treatment of workers, especially African-Americans in this case.

1 comment:

  1. Jean Toomer’s short story Karintha presents the development of Karintha as she matures from a young girl into a woman in a community that reveres her for her beauty. Karintha’s beauty brings her male attention at an early age and influences her to ‘grow up too fast’. Toomer’s uses the motif of dusk to describe Karintha’s beauty and partially dark skin tone. He remarks “Men had always wanted Karintha carrying beauty, perfect as dusk when the sun goes down…Her skin is like the dusk when the sun goes down” (3-4). This emphasizes that men in Karintha’s community both young and old are captivated by Karintha’s beauty. “Perfect dusk” alludes to a state between day and night or black and white in which each aspect is equally expressed. By describing Karintha’s complexion as “like dusk” Toomer uses a simile to point out that Karintha is a girl of mixed heritage. Toomer describes Karintha’s mixed heritage as the standard of beauty most desirable in Karintha’s community when he refers to it as “perfect”. Later in the short story, Toomer foreshadows that Karintha will mature too quickly as a result of so much attention from males. He states, “This interest of the male, who wishes to ripen a growing thing too soon, could mean no good to her” (3). This explains that Karintha’s beauty brings her a lot of male attention. However, such attention causes her to mature too quickly and lose the innocence of her childhood. Karintha grows up too fast and enters into relationships that cause her grief latter in life. Toomer observes, “Karintha is a woman, and has had a child…She has been married many times…Men do not know that the soul of her was a growing thing ripened too soon…She has contempt for them” (4). Karintha becomes a woman through practicing adult behavior while still young. Reflecting on this latter in life, Karintha has disdain for the men in her past that influenced her engage in adult activities and mature too soon.