“When the first was born, the white folks said they’d have no more to do with her. And black folks, they too joined hands to cast her out… The pines whispered to Jesus.. The railroad boss said not to say he had said it, but she could live, if she wanted to, on the narrow strip of land between the railroad and the road.” (Toomer 9).
Toomer, Jean. Cane. Boni and Liveright, 1923.
Toomer formats the prose of “Becky” how he intends it to be read aloud. The ellipses and two periods work to clue the reader into pausing for air and the commas show when there should be a light pause in the delivery of the line. Since African American culture is largely oral, it is an important aspect of the book’s cultural influence to understand the prose and format of the book in this way.
“The phrase and the day and the scene harmonised in a chord.
Words. Was it their colours? He allowed them to glow and fade, hue
after hue: sunrise gold, the russet and green of apple orchards, azure
of waves, the greyfringed fleece of clouds. No, it was not their
colours: it was the poise and balance of the period itself. Did he then
love the rhythmic rise and fall of words better than their associations
of legend and colour? Or was it that, being as weak of sight as he was
shy of mind, he drew less pleasure from the reflection of the glowing
sensible world through the prism of language many coloured and
richly storied than from the contemplation of an inner world of
individual emotions mirrored perfectly in a lucid supple periodic
prose?” (Joyce 140).
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press, 2000.
In his religious devotion, Stephen still focuses on artistry and the imagery behind each word of a phrase. From a single phrase he reads, Stephen extrapolates its meaning and how it serves to create a world within its reader’s imagination.