“Box Seat” may be one of the most intriguing and perplexing pieces in Jean Toomer’s Cane. However, in a short 1988 article, Sandra Flowers argues that the usage of imagery in this piece is used to denounce Black middle class values at the time. In the piece, Flowers remarked that there were three main types of imagery: enclosure, locking and positioning. Enclosure imagery is used throughout the piece, most notably when Dan is entering the house and must pass through an iron gate, symbolically representing the separation between him and Muriel. The use of locking imagery is also used frequently, such as when Muriel and Ms. Pribby sit down and “click” into place in their seats, showing the way that are locked into their class. The use of positioning imagery is mostly used during the theater scene, such as when Muriel symbolically tells her friend Bernice (who is of a lower class) to sit behind her, literally showing the class difference between them and emphasizing her superiority. This positioning also shows the way that Muriel was close to the underclass, but tried her best to outdistance her past by placing it behind her. Therefore, the coalescence of these different types of imagery in “Box Seat” represent Toomer’s disdain for the way that the Black middle class was unwilling to cross class lines.

Flowers, Sandra. “Solving the Critical Conundrum of Jean Toomer’s ‘Box Seat.’” Studies in Short Fiction 25, no. 3 (June 1988): 301–6.