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Blood Burning Moon

In: Social Issues

Submitted By obiwan
Words 604
Pages 3
American Short Story Sherwood Anderson
In Jean Toomer’s short story “Blood Burning Moon,” the moon plays a central role in the resolution of a love triangle. Toomer indicates the moon in a negative way with just the title of the story, underscoring its wickedness: perhaps the moon runs on blood, lusts for it. It also foreshadows the nights events: “The full moon in the great door was an omen.” It “soft showere[s] the negro shanties,” contrary to our initial impression of it, perhaps lulling the people below into a false sense of security.
The role of the moon is seen most vividly in the love triangle between Bob Stone, Tom Burwell and Louisa. Their interactions with each other closely parallel the behaviors of celestial bodies in orbit, much like the moon. Louisa’s mind floats between her two callers, Bob Stone who loves her and Tom Burwell, who also loves her, but “working in the fields all day, and far away from her, gave him no chance to show it.” Burwell is unaware of how much he holds Louisa to factory town, however, as “his black balanced, and pulled against, the white of Stone, when she thought of them.” The balancing act of the triangle mimics that of the moon in orbit in relation to surrounding bodies. As Louisa contemplates Bob and Tom, she comes over the crest of the hill, singing at the “evil face of the moon.”
Tom, Bob and Louisa all perceive a stirring in nature, but in different ways. Louisa experiences it internally, blaming it on either of her callers, but ultimately indicating the moon as its cause: “they jumbled when her eyes gazed vacantly at the rising moon. And from the jumble came the stir that was strangely within her.” Toomer employs yelping animals along the countryside to indicate a disturbance in nature. Leaving the factory, Tom hears the animals and starts to feel funny as he perceives the stirring. He sees the moon and shudders, feeling irrational in his fear of it. Bob Stone experiences the stirring unwittingly, on his way to meet Louisa. A “blindness within him” causes him to trip, and soon after to run into a hound trying to get out of his way. Bob is unphased by the disturbance, blind to nature’s cues and unaware of the moon. The effect of the disturbance, and the moon by extension, on Tom and Louisa indicates Bob’s oblivious nature as a distinct difference between them. Although each perceive a disturbance within nature, only Tom and Louisa are aware of the moon and its powerful presence.
We are unsure of the moon’s role in the night’s events as the story draws to a close: did the moon orchestrate the events of the evening? Is it to blame for the deaths of both men? The moon functions as a powerful symbol of the evil that is inaction, drawing on Toomer’s themes of race to make this comparison. Ever watchful, its presence everyday an inevitable thing, the moon stood by, hid behind a cloud bank as a black man was gruesomely murdered. Tom and Louisa, aware of its presence, were also fearful of it, while Bob’s ignorance was remedied by his race and the privilege it lent his situation: the death of Tom Burwell at the hands of his brethren. And although the moon is an omen, it did not predict the events of the evening, but rather the plight of black people. After Tom is murdered, Louisa sees the moon: “At any rate, the flu moon in the great door was an omen, which she must sing to.”

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