Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Karintha: A Lost Innocence

“Men had always wanted her, this Karintha, even as a child, Karintha carrying beauty, perfect as dusk when the sun goes down. Old men rode her hobby-horse upon their knees. Young men danced with her frolics when they should have been dancing with their grown-up girls. God grant us youth, secretly prayed the old men. The young fellows counted the time to pass before she would be old enough to mate with them. This interest of the male, who wishes to ripen a growing thing too soon, could mean no good to her."

Source: Cane, Jean Toomer, “Karintha” (3-4)

“Karintha” is a very dense short story. It’s about this young girl who grows up in a town where all of the men, young and old, wish they could be with her. As Toomer described “men had always wanted her,” was to me her ultimate downfall within the story. All of this attention she was receiving from all different kinds of men we letting her believe that she was better than any other girl. Toomer compared her beauty to a sun setting over the horizon. But when I think about dusk I think about the transition from light to darkness. I got the impression that Toomer was using this as an analogy to Karintha and how she was growing up was too fast. From the “old men riding her hobby-horse” to the “young men counting the days to mate with her” lead her to forget her innocent childhood. Another important line for me was “God grant us youth.” I think this was a crucial sign that she was forgetting how to be an innocent girl because of all the attention she was receiving. All of this ties in to the last line of this particular passage, “this interest of the male, who wishes to ripen [mature] a growing thing to soon, could mean no good to her.” As a reader, I compared this to dusk, the transition from light to darkness. Light representing the innocence of Karintha and darkness representing her overlooking the innocence and growing up too soon. This innocent girl is maturing too soon. I found Toomer's use of foreshadow at the end of this passage to be useful. It allowed me to see what was going to come with Karintha and to think about that the attention she was receiving at a very young age will be her ultimate downfall as an adult woman.


  1. I cant seem to post my own post, so i am just going to put it as a comment. Sorry for the confusion.


    Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
    Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low
    Where only chips and stumps are left to show
    The solid proof of the former domicile.

    In reading through Georgia Dusk, I find myself becoming increasingly interested in the significance of both the sawmill and the sawdust and their connection to the lives of the workers. I think there is an interesting connection between the sawmill/sawdust and the fractured lives of the workers, who I assume are of African-American descent. I believe that there is a parallel between the sawmill’s role in destroying the forest and slavery’s role in destroying the African-American culture. In the most simplest sense of the noun, a sawmill is a place where freshly cut trees are taken and processed into lumber, creating a byproduct of sawdust which has few uses and often ends up piled in a corner. However, in the fourth stanza, Toomer seems to suggest that the sawmill is more than a simple factory with the suggestion of the ghosts of the trees. In the last line of the stanza, Toomer’s use of the word domicile, a word loosely meaning a permanent residence, suggests that the sawmill has destroyed the home of the trees.
    While the fourth stanza by itself suggests an interesting and perhaps strange perception of a sawmill as a murderer of trees, the connection between the fourth and fifth stanza is what convinces men of the analogy between sawmills and slavery.
    Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,
    Race memories of king and caravan,
    High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
    Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.

    If the African people can be said to be synonymous with trees, then a connection is easily established between the sawmill and the slave trade’s importation of slaves from Africa. Slavery has fractured the cultural domicile of the African people by extorting them for the resources (their labor) and left them with only ghosts and “vestiges of pomp” of their history as a proud people. The “Race memories” of the men are clearly connected to the smoke and the ghosts of the sawdust pile.

  2. In response to Brady's post, I found it pretty insightful that the dusk mentioned in the poem related to Katherine's loss of innocence. The idea that she grew up too fast, thanks to the greed of the men around her, contributed to her skin being like dusk (her darker and increasingly less visible innocence). You also bring up another interesting point in that she became caught up in all the attention she was receiving, and this was a main factor in forgetting about how to be an innocent girl.

  3. Thanks for the insight about her skin. I didn't even thing about her skin being like dusk or a mix between light and dark. Her skin could play an interesting role within the rest of the story. Her skin can relate to her confusion or her being stuck in this maturing mindset, but still inside a young girls body.

  4. I seem to be having the same problem as James. I am just going to post my post here as well, that way when you read James' you can view mine also. Sorry Brady.


    Toomer’s “Fern” and the representation of her eyes

    “Her eyes, if it were sunset, rested idly where the sun, molten and glorious, was pouring down between the fringe of pines…Wherever they looked, you’d follow them and then waver back. Like her face, the whole countryside seemed to flow into her eyes. Flowed into them with the soft listless cadence of Georgia South.”

    When reading this story I could not help but notice the importance of Fern’s eyes. It seems as if they represent some connotation of viewing life and nature. Toomer’s giving the girl the name Fern, which is a plant, I feel, helps to strengthen the argument that she represents some aspect of nature or the society around her (in this case, life in Georgia, or even the South).
    In the passage the narrator uses descriptive words having to do with nature. He also mentions that he could not help but look at what she saw. This shows the interest that her stare, or gaze, provides for others. It, sort of, gives off the feeling that she sees the world in another way, and that it is common for others to want to see it from her perspective. By mentioning how everything just “flows” into her eyes the narrator provides us with more information on her keen observation skills. Also, from this comparison of how her face and the countryside both flow into her eyes we can get the sense that the narrator once again mentions Ferns representation of the world around her, and that she is one with nature.

  5. Brady, I think that your analysis is spot on. It is clear that all of the attention that she was receiving is what led to her loss of innocence. Even as a child she was treated special, and this kind of treatment would indeed affect an individuals character. For instance, because of the attention from the men, she could not have a normal childhood (which in turn represents innocence)but instead grew up too fast and became deprived of that innocence.