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Blood-Burning Moon Literary Critique

            The short story "Blood-Burning Moon", by Jean Toomer, is the final part in a three-part book called Cane. The story takes place in a rural southern setting during a time of strong segregation. In this town, a white man, Bob Stone, and an African-American, Tom Burwell, challenge each other for the love of an African-American woman, Louisa. After the two men discover each other's lust for Louisa, Bob confronts Tom in a knife-fight. Tom lacerates the white man's throat, who later stumbles back to the "white" town to tell the others. The extreme racism emerges when a mob quickly forms to lynch Tom and burn him at the stake. Throughout the story "Blood-Burning Moon," Jean Toomer accentuates racism through love and passion, imagery, and Tom's lynching.
             In exploring the feelings of both Bob Stone and Tom Burwell toward Louisa, Toomer creates a relationship of love and passion through racism. In order to attain this depiction of racial conflict, Toomer creates a romantic clash between Bob Stone and Tom Burwell for their possession of Louisa. While Tom loves and cherishes her, Bob's interest in Louisa is one solely of sexual possession. The centrality of Louisa in this piece is crucial in many ways for the development of Toomer's theme of racism. "In Louisa, [Toomer] fuses with dramatic intensity the love and hate, beauty and ugliness that live side by side in the interracial South" (Eldridge 58). One way Toomer brings this together is by Louisa's meekness. She is rather undecided between the two men and likes being desired by both. Louisa expects that Tom will propose to her soon but believes that it "could be indefinitely put off" (Toomer 61). This meekness and passivity toward the two stimulates their competition and foreshadows the violence to come. Bob's racial hatred toward Louisa is evident as he does not love her or see himself marrying her. Louisa is merely a sexual item Bob dispenses with when he wants.

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