Portrait in Georgia
by Jean Toomer
We're not just talking skin color here, but of course that plays a big role in "Portrait in Georgia." The thing is, it's not as easy to determine skin color in this poem as you might believe. Don't believe us? Take a look:
- Line 1: The hair of the subject of Toomer's portrait is chestnut-colored (or a dark, reddish brown). Frankly, this doesn't tell us much about this person. We don't know if they're white or black, male or female—or anything, really, except for the fact that they have chestnut hair.
- Line 4: The figure's lips are described as red blisters, which also doesn't tell us much.
- Lines 6-7: The figure in the poem is described as having a "white" body. But that white body is compared to the "ash / of black flesh after flame." What's that all about? In a weird way, these lines make it pretty near impossible to know who's who in this poem, or what race they are. Is the flesh white because it was burnt, or was it white to begin with. Is the "black flesh" in the poem solely here for comparison purposes, or is there a real body present? Who's black and who's white and what's the difference? Shmoopers, these questions have no answers.
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