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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Light and dark: Reverse Binaries in Toomer's Fern (Race Analysis by Eric Vaughn)

The narrator seems to embrace elements of darkness by labeling Fern’s appearance like the shadow of a birds wing and she apparently has an aquiline or eagle like nose as well. This constant imagery of a bird, more specifically an eagle, is rather interesting because eagles are revered for their eyes and their ability to see far more than humans can. Interestingly the primary fascination of the narrator, in this text, is with Fern’s eyes. What they see and what they desire. In order to see, eyes require light and it is typically the light in a person’s eye that draws fascination. However, in this case, the narrator, as well as the other men who have pursued Fern, seem to be attracted to the absence of light, in a sense, because she isn’t really looking at anything and she doesn’t really appear to desire anything--especially nothing a person can offer her. The only sources of white or light are the white men who could never understand Fern, the darker images that she could be looking at, and the sunset. Although a sunset gets it beauty from the presence of light, one can also argue that the beauty of the sunset is from the gradual absence of light. Considering that the piece is written from an African American perspective, a switch in appreciation of the binary between light and dark that usually shows favor for light is an interesting aspect for race analysis.

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