Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reapers: a Transition from the Working Man

When I first read “Reapers” I honestly had no idea what the poem was saying nor did I know where to begin. But after reading it over and over, I can up with the conclusion that it is about the transition between the working man to machine. The poem begins “Black reapers with the sound of steel on stones,” which lead me to believe that the black reapers are referring to man. Further down the poem the transition happens when the “Black horses drive a mower through the weeds.” Those two lines alone show the transition from man to machine. On the other hand, this poem might be more than the agricultural transformation. There is an underlying theme of slavery. So some can make an argument for why Toomer chose to use the word ‘black’ to describe the reapers and horse. First, he uses “black reapers” to refer to African American men who are working in the fields and second he uses the word ‘black’ to describe the horse to show a correlation between man and beast. He wanted to show that both man and beast were being treated like property.

1 comment:

  1. Your interpretation of the working man to the machine transition is very interesting- I hadn't thought of that, and it makes a lot of sense based on the text. The poem begins with the reapers who only have scythes and have to hand-sharpen them. Then, the mower machines are built and the horse pull them as if without end, as they "continue to cut weeds and shade." If this is the case, it would seem that Toomer is conveying the dangers and destruction of machines with the field mouse that was mowed over without notice.