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2018 Reprint of 1923 Edition. Cane is structured as a series of vignettes revolving around the origins and experiences of African Americans in the United States. The vignettes alternate in structure between narrative prose, poetry, and play-like passages of dialogue. As a result, the novel has been classified as a composite novel or as a short story cycle. Though some characters and situations recur between vignettes, the vignettes are mostly freestanding, tied to the other vignettes thematically and contextually more than through specific plot details. The ambitious, nontraditional structure of the novel - and its later influence on future generations of writers - have helped Cane gain status as a classic of High Modernism.
In The Negro Novel in America, Robert A. Bone wrote: "By far the most impressive product of the Negro Renaissance, Cane ranks with Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man as a measure of the Negro novelist's highest achievement. Jean Toomer belongs to that first rank of writers who use words almost as a plastic medium, shaping new meanings from an original and highly personal style."
Alice Walker said of the book, "It has been reverberating in me to an astonishing degree. I love it passionately, could not possibly exist without it."
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