Nellie McKay: On "Reapers"

Black reapers—men—prepare for the harvest by sharpening their scythes, but a mower, driven by black horses, cuts through the weeds with indifference, unknowingly destroying a field rat with its blades. Toomer creates a contrast between the knowledge and purpose of responsible human beings and the automated disinterestedness of machines. The reapers are deliberate in their preparations, and they have an objective and expectations of rewards. But no human awareness governs the actions of machines, which cannot comprehend the devastation they cause.

In establishing this division, Toomer indicts those who carry out acts of oppression against others and asserts that they act out of elements in themselves that are less than human. Such actions violate the human reason for being and the doer becomes like the machine, without the ability to nourish human life.


Title Nellie McKay: On "Reapers" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Nellie McKay Criticism Target Jean Toomer
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 14 Jun 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Jean Toomer: Artist—A Study of His Literary Life and Work, 1894-1936
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