Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Fern” is a poetic, symbolic story. Reflection and story line are integrally intertwined, and the reader is integrally involved. Readers, perhaps especially males, can identify with its timeless themes of relationships between men and women, the meaning of sexuality, and the proximity of religious experience to human love. By using universal questions Toomer repeatedly engages the reader in the process of defining the meaning of the story.

Imagery is powerful and effective in “Fern.” From the first paragraph, Toomer sets the stage for the climax by creating poignant religious imagery, whose intensity is heightened by Jewish symbols. Ultimately, “Fern” is not a theological statement but sociological and psychological realism that raises fundamental issues of life’s most sensitive and exciting bond, human love.

Fern Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Benson, Joseph, and Mabel Mayle Dillard. Jean Toomer. Boston: Twayne, 1980.

Byrd, Rudolph P. “Jean Toomer and the Writers of the Harlem Renaissance: Was He There with Them?” In The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations, edited by Amritjit Singh, William S. Shiver, and Stanley Brodwin. New York: Garland, 1989.

Fabre, Geneviève, and Michel Feith, eds. Jean Toomer and the Harlem Renaissance. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001.

Ford, Karen Jackson. Split-Gut Song: Jean Toomer and the Poetics of Modernity. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005.

Hajek, Friederike. “The Change of Literary Authority in the Harlem Renaissance: Jean Toomer’s Cane.” In The Black Columbiad: Defining Moments in African American Literature and Culture, edited by Werner Sollos and Maria Diedrich. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Kerman, Cynthia. The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.

O’Daniel, Therman B., ed. Jean Toomer: A Critical Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1988.

Scruggs, Charles, and Lee VanDemarr. Jean Toomer and the Terrors of American History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Toomer’s Cane as Narrative Sequence.” In Modern American Short Story Sequences, edited by J. Gerald Kennedy. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995.