"Song of the Son" from Cane
In his work Cane, Jean Toomer depicts life in the South. Toomer puts together both prose and poetry in a variety of styles. Each piece works to create it’s own individual experience for the reader, while at the same time adding to the collective tone and impression of the work as a whole. One part is “Song of the Son,” which provides an interesting perspective on how the past can inform the experiences of a group of people.
The speaker of the poem talks about the “Negro slaves” who are “Passing” (16-18). There is a generation of people who were at one time enslaved and who are now, as a group, slowly passing away. These people are described as “dark purple ripened plums,” which evokes positive ideas of fullness and richness (16). The word “ripened” also gives the reader the impression that these people possess wisdom.
Although it goes without saying that the past of this group that is being spoken about is obviously traumatic, the speaker does not try to forget this past. Instead, the speaker marks the importance of this past. He is saved a “plum” and thus a “seed" (19). Rather than focusing on the trauma of this past and the negative affects, the speaker uses language that implies there is important growth that can occur from redeeming this past and stopping it from being lost as a generation passes away. The speaker solidifies the positive impact of remembering the past when he discusses the “everlasting song” that is the result of saving a “seed” of memory (20).