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Toomer's water metaphors form a vortex from and through which rush mingled ideas of hope and suffering that replace the actual situation in which the narrator and other characters find themselves. Thus, water imagery in Cane does not mirror external reality but, in the manner of a symbol, denotes the metaphysical.

All ten poems in part 1 harmonize their lyrical expression derived from the intricate pattern of water imagery with the religious core of stories where physical and spiritual energy coalesce. "November Cotton Flower" with its tragic images of vanishing water, spreading drought, and dried-up wells echoes the dramatic conflict of "Karintha" by the symbolic representation of death as tension:


And cotton, scarce as any southern snow,

Was vanishing; the branch, so pinched and slow,

Failed in its function as the autumn rake;

Drouth fighting soil had caused the soil to take

All water from the streams; dead birds were found

In wells a hundred feet below the ground—

                            ("November Cotton Flower," 7)


Toomer's metaphorical and metonymical processes involve similarity, causality, and inclusion. When associated with drought, water becomes evocative of drained life, even of life tinged with death, or foreboding death.