“Ralph Kabnis, propped on his bed, tries to read. To read himself to sleep. An oil lamp on a hair near his elbow burns unsteadily. The cabin room is spaced fantastically about it. Whitewashed hearth and chimney, black with sooty saw-teeth.”
Toomer, Jean. “Kabnis.” Cane. New York: Liveright, 2011. 111. Print.
Ralph tries “to read himself to sleep” to immerse himself in a story that is not his own. The unsteadily burning lamp is like his life, and his mind, always on edge. He recognizes that his room is whitewashed physically, as his society is whitewashed with white people in charge. His own life is tainted with “black… sooty-saw teeth.” Even he perceives blackness as being bad. This says a lot about how his mind has been whitewashed.