While the issue of how men relate to women and women relate to men has been a long explored topic, one that was nearly taboo for centuries was the question of how black men relate to black women. Due primarily to their status as slaves and laborers, black people have only recently, within the past 100 years or so, had their voices heard. Because of this, the relationships between men and women as they exist within the black community have remained relatively unexplored until recently. Central to Jean Toomer’s Karintha, Ernest J. Gaines’s A Long Day in November, and Toni Cade Bambara’s A Tender Man are relationships between black men and black women, and more specifically, how black women must contend with the realities of black men. Throughout all three stories, it is revealed that, much like the relationships among white people, women’s lives are altered by the roles pushed upon them by men.
In Jean Toomer’s novel Karintha, the male characters overwhelmingly reject the natural cycles of life in order to rationalize their desire for Karintha. Throughout the story one is inundated with descriptions of her beauty and the lust it inspires in the men around her. “Even the preacher, who caught her at mischief, told himself that she was as innocently lovely as a November cotton flower” (Toomer, 19). Karintha’s actions, which are natural expressions of her personality rather than any devious attempt to gain the men’s attentions, must be denied in favor of what the preacher and other men decide she is based upon their interpretation of her actions. Toomer specifies that the preacher “tells himself”, connoting this type of external construction of her identity. Immediately following the preacher’s episode, the reader is informed: “Already, rumors were out about her” (19). The juxtaposition with the preacher’s thoughts, leads one to read these rumors as the product of more constructions, more denials