Toomer’s “Cane”: FACE Tone and Structure



like streams of stars,

Brows —
recurved canoes
quivered by the ripples blown by pain,

Her eyes—
mist of tears!” (Toomer 14)

Toomer, Jean. Cane. Boni and Liveright, 1923.

In between each line in the poem, there’s a pause indicated by a hyphen. The repeated short breaks draws attention to the subject indicated by the capitalized first letter and each bodily feature having its own line as its being described. Because African American work is spoken rather than read unlike most traditional works of literature, the lines are short with multiple pauses. However, for the reader they hang onto the words being divided by the small breaks. Because these lines are short, it embodies the tone for this poem.


Sayer’s “Whose Body?”: Romanticized Crime

“A grey suit, I fancy, neat but not gaudy, with a hat to tone, suits my other self better. Exit the amateur of first editions; new motive introduced by solo bassoon; enter Sherlock Holmes, disguised as a walking gentleman” (Sayer 13)

Sayers, Dorothy L. Whose Body?. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1923.

The reference to Sherlock Holmes and his concern for his appearance to a crime site indicates that Lord Peter idealizes being a detective—being just like Sherlock Holmes. It implies that he holds more interest dressing and acting as the role of an investigator character.

Mrs Dalloway: Ways of Living

“Her parties! That was it! Her parties! Both of them criticised her very unfairly, laughed at her unjustly, for her parties. That was it! That was it!


They thought, or Peter at any rate thought, that she enjoyed imposing herself; liked to have famous people about her; great names; was simply a snob in short. Well, Peter might think so. Richard merely thought it foolish of her to like excitement when she knew it was bad for her heart. It was childish, he thought. And both were wrong. What she liked was simply life” (Woolf 118)

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2005.

The parties are the only tangible means for Clarissa to experience life—in some sense, it is her drive to live because it is her purpose. The parties are the only instances where Clarissa is seen to be more animate and involved with living—arranging the party, buying flowers, etc. Men like Peter and Richard scoff at her interest in throwing parties when in reality they are responsible for her state of isolation and loneliness; Peter abandoned her and Richard restricts Clarissa from living or getting too excited about life for the sake of her health. In a male dominated society, Peter and Richard try to discourage Clarissa from getting so involved with parties because it is childish and snobbish when it is the only outlet for Clarissa to express her desire for life. The parties are her domain, and she can manage and control them herself without the interference of her husband; it is power even if it’s just a party.

Art and Torment James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“A brief anger had often invested him but he had never been able to make it an abiding passion and had always felt himself passing out of it as if his very body were being divested with ease of some outer skin or peel. He had felt a subtle, dark and murmurous presence penetrate his being and fire him with a brief iniquitous lust: it too had slipped beyond his grasp leaving his mind lucid and indifferent. This, it seemed, was the only love and that the only hate his soul would harbor” (Joyce 126)

The vivid language and style paints the bitter internal struggle between Steven’s desires and his strict piety. Desire is portrayed as an ominous presence that always seems to get past his piety which makes Steven intensely ashamed for. He tries to fight desire but it is useless—his soul allows it to enter and leave which he remains bitter over. To him, his desire and passion and lust are seen as sinful yet his heart allows it which only makes him more resentful towards it even though it is implied that he secretly wishes for it (for him to let passion take over.)

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, Oxford University Press, Oxford,2000, page 126.

James, “The Middle Ages” Commonplace Book Entry: The Purpose of Life

“ ‘A second chance—that’s the delusion. There never was to be but one. We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art’ ”

James, Henry. “The Middle Years.” In Complete Stories 1892-1898, edited by John Hollander and David Bromwich, 335-55. New York: Library of America, 1996, p. 354

All the doubt and fear Dencombe felt was the accumulation of passion which he designated to be the purpose of human life and as a result, his passion for writing gains the respect and admiration of Doctor Hughes. His work is what inspires and preserves the doctor’s passion for literature (a dying field.) In a handful of words, the author portrays a fulfilled circle of life one that serves to reassure us of own doubts. Rather than try and dismiss our fear of the uncertainty, it is portrayed as being a necessary component of passion that drives us to live. This vicious cycle of self-doubt, regret, and fear finds itself in our lives and our sense of fulfillment, but perhaps this is necessary to help us complete our purpose?