Sunday, February 8, 2009
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.