Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*American South

*American South. Although Toomer lived in the South only for a brief period, the experience had connected him to his ancestral roots. He knew that his father was from the South even though he had never seen him. His poem “Song of the Son” expresses nostalgia for the past. Toomer seeks solidarity with his African heritage as he mentions “souls of slavery” and “cotton bales,” to record a way of life that was shared by his ancestors. The first part of his book includes prose sketches of southern women whose sexual lives provide a common thread despite their individual differences. For example, Fern is an attractive and available woman who leaves an impression on the males that she is “above them.” She becomes a metaphor of a fluid identity that transcends conventional constraints. She can call upon Jesus Christ and also sing like a Jewish cantor; in spite of their regional and racial divisions in lifestyles, all men are eager to please her. Toomer can imagine her in different settings—as a prostitute as well as the wife of a lawyer or a doctor.

*Washington, D.C

*Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States and the urban setting for the second part of Toomer’s book. In “Seventh Street,” Toomer’s imagery includes streetcar tracks and Cadillacs.


*Chicago. Great midwestern city that is the setting for the last story in Toomer’s book, “Bona and Paul,” which brings together a southern white and a northern African American in a transient relationship.