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Cane is a 1923 novel by noted Harlem Renaissance author Jean Toomer. The novel is structured as a series of vignettes revolving around the origins and experiences of African Americans in the United States. The vignettes alternate in structure between narrative prose, poetry, and play-like passages of dialogue. Although some characters and situations recur between vignettes, the vignettes are mostly freestanding, tied to the other vignettes thematically and contextually more than through specific plot details.


  • “Cane” (poem)

First section:

  • “Karintha” – A vignette about a young black woman desired by older men who wish “to ripen a growing thing too soon.”
  • “Reapers” – A poem written in couplets about reapers in a field, their “silent swinging,” and the stark death of a field rat.
  • “November Cotton Flower” – A sonnet written in couplets with images of death in nature in the octave. These images become “beauty so sudden” in the sestet.
  • “Becky” – Vignette of an ostracized white woman with two black sons who lives in a small stone house with the railway.
  • “Face” (poem)
  • “Cotton Song” (poem)
  • “Carma” – Vignette about a strong woman whose husband becomes involved in shady business.
  • “Song of the Son” (poem)
  • “Georgia Dusk” (poem)
  • “Fern” – A Northern man attempts to woo a southern black woman, with strange results.
  • “Nullo” (poem)
  • “Evening Song” (poem)
  • “Esther” – A young woman who works in a drug store ages and pines for the wandering preacher Barlo, eventually seeking him out.
  • “Conversion” (poem)
  • “‘Portrait of Georgia” (poem)
  • “Blood Burning Moon” – Black man Tom Burwell and white man Bob Stone each pursue the young Louisa, resulting in a violent encounter and a tragic climax.

Second section:

  • “Seventh Street” – Brief vignette about a street which is “a bastard of Prohibition and the War.”
  • “Rhobert” – Brief vignette about a solitary man.
  • “Avey” – A young college student pursues a lazy girl named Avey, but cannot figure out why.
  • “Beehive” (poem)
  • “Storm Ending” (poem)
  • “Theater” – A dancer named Dorris seeks the approval and adoration of a patron named John.
  • “Her Lips are Copper Wire” (poem)
  • “Calling Jesus” – A brief vignette.
  • “Box Seat” – Dan Moore lusts after a reluctant Muriel, and follows her to a dwarf fight, where he starts a scene.
  • “Prayer” (poem)
  • “Harvest Song” (poem)
  • “Bona and Paul” – A story of indifferent love.
  • “People”(poem) -Tries to tackle the issue of racism

Third section:

  • “Kabnis” – The piece is primarily dialog and has elements of a short play. For example, the dialogue does not use tags (“he said”) or describe the thoughts of the speaker. There also seem to be stage directions. “Kabnis” also has non-dramatic elements. It does not follow the format of a professional play. The language uses highly poetic descriptions, and a narrator comments on characters’ feelings.



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