“If you don’t want him, you sho oughta. Heah you is wid de onliest organ in town, amongst colored folks, in yo’ parlor. Got a house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big road and . . . Lawd have mussy! Dat’s de very prong all us black women gits hung on. Dis love!” (23).
The practice of arranged marriage is a tactic used by the well-off to maintain economic and social roles — marriage can combine wealth and power. In this case, the intent of arranged marriage is quite the opposite: Nanny finds Janie a husband in order to protect her from abuse. “Sixty acres” being the promise of reparations post-slavery is a symbolic attempt to demarcate social class even within an already oppressed group — yet another tactic adopted from the powerful.
“A very queer and composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”
There is a strange tension in the course of female affairs: on the one account, they are embraced in the field of art and literature. Yet, on a competing account, they are left out of positions relating to power. To resolve this tension, the crucial similarity is the presence of power-relations. Even when “glorified” in poetry, women are always the subjects, never the producers. Women are to be controlled, framed, and written about by men. In effect, there is a loss of agency. This is seen, perhaps more obviously, in history. As an attempt to secure power, men ensured that women could not access the “bastions” of civil-society.
“Dorris dances. She forgets her tricks. She dances
Glorious songs are the muscles of her limbs.
And her singing is of canebrake loves and mangrove feastings.
The walls press in, singing. Flesh of a throbbing body, they press close to John and Dorris. They close them in. John’s heart beats tensely against her dancing body. Walls press his mind within his heart. And then, the shaft of light goes out the window high above him. John’s mind sweeps up to follow it. Mind pulls him upward into dream. Dorris dances…”
Toomer, Jean. “Theater.” Cane. New York: Liveright, 2011. 71. Print.
This moment between Dorris and John is connected to other moments in the text through its motif of the “canebrake” and the “mangrove.” In particular, the “canebrake” connects Dorris to the character of Louisa in “Blood-Burning Moon” and highlights their common relationships to white men in positions of power.
“In a college like this, he said at length, there is one boy or perhaps two or three boys whom God calls to the religious life. Such a boy is marked off from his companions by his piety, by the good example he shows to others. He is looked up to by them; he is chosen perhaps as perfect by his fellow sodalists. And you, Stephen, have been such a boy in this college, prefect of Our Blessed Lady’s sodality. Perhaps you are the boy in this college whom God designs to call to Himself”.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)
Stephen feels proud of himself for receiving this honor and there is amazing imagery in this part of the novel that depicts what is going on in his mind and his idea of being a priest of God.