Friday, February 4, 2011

Georgia Dusk

First off, it is important to note the setting of the poem. Given that we know the author is an African American writer, the poem is set in a Georgia town probably consisting mostly of African American residents. The poem takes place during the sunset, probably when people are coming home from their jobs. This was probably a time when families would come together and spend time at home with one another. One of the most interesting things about this poem is the use of auditory language. The author uses melodious tone throughout the poem such as “folk-songs” (line 8), “singing” (20), “caroling” (line 24), etc… There are many more examples that support the author’s use of musical language. To follow along with this analysis, the rhyme scheme consists of “ABBA” and continues throughout the poem. This shows that the melody is consistent throughout the poem. The poem also has 7 stanzas and I actually did a little bit of research online and found that the diatonic scales in music contain 7 different notes and I thought this may have related to the melodious tone throughout the poem.
Now you may ask yourself, well then why does the author use this type of language or musical references throughout the poem? I thought about the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In Douglass’s narrative he explains that slaves liked to sing, whether it was for communication or for pure enjoyment. I thought this was interesting because slaves were unable to receive an education and music was something that had a large impact in their lives. So I thought that maybe Toomer structured this poem around that idea to show that music was a very important part of African American life during slavery. This interpretation makes more sense to me because it shows that slaves did certain things to keep their minds occupied during difficult times. The author wants the reader to understand that “songs” were an important symbol in the life of a slave and this is what Frederick Douglass also emphasized in his narrative.


  1. This is a solid analysis and interpretation of the poem "Georgia Dusk". I also agree with your beginning analysis of the setting and structure of the poem. The research you did really brings the structure of this poem to a new level of understanding. I never would have known about the musical aspect and structure of the musical scales. This would definitely provide the author a reason to write this poem with a musical background and structure. I also saw a small connection to the poem "Reapers", basically through the subject of the poem. These two poems I feel are a testament to the harsh realities of slavery. The author is able to provide a poetic structure to the poem that would mirror the singing of the African-Americans during the 19th century, and you do a great job of supporting those facts in your analysis. Great job!

  2. The musical comment is interesting, but the scales, althought the contain seven different notes, actually contain 8 tones, because the first note has to be repeated to complete the scale:


    So I'm not throwing your idea out at all, but I'm curious as to whether you think the possibility of an "incomplete" scale has anything do with the poem? An "incomplete" song, perhaps?