Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Karintha: Beauty and Power

Karintha is an interesting take on the portrayal of an African-American woman, and how she is viewed by men in her society. I found the third paragraph to stand out most in my eyes. There is a short, four line indented passage of what seems to be an excerpt from a poem. This inclusion of the poem gives an emotional response from the author to the audience. “Her skin is like dusk, o cant you see it, Her skin is like dusk, When the sun goes down” (Toomer 4). The audience is provided with this poetic piece that gives an image of the woman’s skin, and uses a simile to describe her skin as dusk, or the period between day and night. This is important to note because Karintha is being described as a light skinned African-American, which apparently seemed to be desirable by the society she lived in.

Another part of the third paragraph I find to be very interesting is the sense of power that Karintha holds over these men. This piece was published in the mid 1920’s, which was coming at the tail-end of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and women were just starting to gain rights in society. “Karintha smiles, and indulges them when she is in the mood for it. Young men run stills to make her money…They all want to bring her money” (Toomer 4). This passage shows how Karintha indulges the men when she so wishes to. She has the ability to flirt with them, and even get money from these men. Her beauty is what entraps these men into giving her money, as long as they are given affection in return from Karintha. I feel that this passage shows the power and beauty of a young woman, but also reveals the greed of men in society to indulge in her just for the fact that she is beautiful.

Toomer, Jean. Cane. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.


  1. I think that you are right in the fact that Karintha has power over the men because of her beauty but it is also worth noting that it is this beauty which puts her in the situation she is in. Though her beauty allows her to get money from the men it has also cost her her innocence. Beauty is a double-edged sword for Karintha.

  2. I hadn’t really considered the notion that Karintha maintained a sense of power over the men she pleases. Yes, she makes a lot of money from what she’s doing but still holds contempt for them. She has the ability to flirt with them and basically hold them on a string, but how much power can we seem to give her credit for when she’s being used for the sole satisfaction of the men who look out for their personal enjoyment? I agree with this to an extent, but it seems more like she’s fallen prey to the notion, like Wyatt mentioned, that people are paying too much attention to her attractiveness as opposed to recognizing her as an individual with feelings. If she had so much power, I would expect her to use that to change her situation in some form.

  3. This concept of power is a troubling one. We know that Karintha "has contempt" for the men and that she "smiles, and indulges them when she is in the mood for it" (4). But I question the meaning of the word "indulge." I've read a few posts that suggest--unabashedly--that Karintha prostitutes herself. I disagree. The men are not gratified. They continue to present Karintha with material things in order to gain something, but they never do. Like the men in "Fern," they're disappointed because Karintha did not respond the way they expected her to. The repetition of "young men" mirrors the fruitlessness of their pursuit: "Young men run stills to make her money. Young men go to the big cities and run on the road. Yound men go away to college. They all want to bring her money. These are the young men who thought that all they had to do was to count time" (4). I question too the men's motivation for bringing money to Karintha. I wonder if they're even in search of sexual gratification or if they, like the men in Fern, are looking for some way, any way, to be remembered by her.