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There is considerable symbolism in "Cane." The numerous references to cotton accent the powerful place this plant holds in African-American history. The fires that move through the story are symbolize loss and cleansing. However, I am most fond of the relationship between human bodies and buildings. The house that sits on Rhobert's mind is one, and the old man sitting below Halsey's shop is another. Toomer even labels the old man as a symbol, saying, "That old man as symbol, flesh, spirit of the past, what do you think he would say if he could see you?" These connect because the flesh persists, even as a culture is built on silent black bodies.
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