Zora Neale Hurston Short Stories
A Analysis of Janie’s Quest in Her Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For Janie Crawford, protagonist of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, her distant wish is to understand herself spiritually and find inner fulfillment through various relationships. Hurston’s novel recounts Janie’s quest to find fulfillment and security within herself which Janie initially believes can be achieved through partnership, but through her quest is actually led to self-knowledge that her inherent value and strength provides her the greatest fulfillment in her life, enhancing Hurston’s message of the novel that fulfillment comes from within oneself.
Janie’s wish arises while sitting under a pear tree, observing the beauty of nature and describing the scene as a, “love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch … [s]o this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.” (Hurston 11). Janie, limp from the void of such a love embrace in her own life, sets out on her quest to fill her heart. She attempts this with several failed marriages and partners, all of whom end up abusing, oppressing, or neglecting Janie’s needs. Multiple challenges and trials to her mettle finally lead her to meet Tea Cake, a man who, for the first time, treats Janie with respect and equality. In this relationship, Janie can equate her love for Tea Cake to her experience watching the pear tree. However, when a rabid Tea Cake threatens to end Janie’s life, Janie makes the crucial decision to sacrifice Tea Cake to save herself. Throughout the process of her quest, Janie is better able to understand her own motives and character ultimately making her self-confident. She becomes more in control of her voice; vocal about her discomfort regarding Nunkie’s advances on Tea Cake and silent when Tea Cake beats Janie along with the trial following Tea Cake’s death. Janie starts out looking for external acceptance within her community and her partner, but when she is left with neither, she is solaced only by her self-knowledge. The real “confirmation to the voice and vision” she sees under the pear tree is the discovery of her intrinsic spirit as a beautiful and powerful force. Janie’s relationship with Tea Cake leads her to self-knowledge, the awareness and embrace of which allows her to reach inner fulfillment and complete security within herself.
Hurston concludes the novel, “[h]ere was peace. [Janie] pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.” (Hurston 193). Represented is the final stage of the quest — the development of Janie’s character. Instead of observing her life from a distance, so to speak; watching her ship sail with the tide and the horizon set with the sun, she takes control of her destiny and pulls it ashore. Janie calling in her soul reflects her new found command over her voice and the self-realization that the fulfillment and security that Janie was searching for was within her all along.
This knowledge contributes to Hurston’s overall message of the work that complete fulfillment and one’s quest is only defined by the individual, that it is ultimately an internal process. Self-knowledge cannot be obtained by someone for someone else, it can only be discovered personally. While one may be guided by influences to bring them closer to their understanding, the fundamental leap to self-knowledge occurs alone. Ships at a distance hold every man’s wish on board — but for Janie, she is able to steer her own course.
A Character Review of Mrs. Turner in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
A Critical Analysis of ‘Mrs. Turner’ in
Their Eyes Were Watching God
One of the most critically acclaimed novels of the 20th century entitled Their Eyes Were Watching God was written by Zora Neal Hurston. The novel follows the life of a young girl named Janie Crawford through adolescence, three marriages, widowhood, and other various major events in between. Janie meets several interesting people throughout her journey; one notable character being a woman she meets while in her third marriage named Mrs. Turner. Mrs. Turner is a complex character because despite being mixed race, she seems to buy into the racist system black people are oppressed by and partake in the discrimination against black people herself.
Mrs. Turner is initially described by Janie as “a milky sort of a woman that belonged to child-bed,” which is indicative of her mixed heritage (Hurston 163). Mrs. Turner associates herself with Janie because of their similar backgrounds, specifically, “Janie’s coffee-and-cream complexion and…luxurious hair” (Hurston 164). Tea Cake, Janie’s third husband, pokes fun at Mrs. Turner by claiming that she “had been shaped up by a cow kicking her from behind” (Hurston 164). Mrs. Turner, however, valued the parts of her appearance that suggested her white background. Her thin lips, slight, pointed, nose and even “her buttocks in bas-relief were a source of pride” (Hurston 164). What most of the African Americans, including Tea Cake, would have found dissatisfying, she treasured. To Mrs. Turner, appearances were so important because they were representative of social class.
We are first introduced to Mrs. Turner’s bigotry and racism when she thinks to herself that “She didn’t forgive [Janie] for marrying a man as dark as Tea Cake” (Hurston 164). Through hateful comments, the novel reveals that Mrs. Turner has a deep-rooted belief that the white race is superior to the black race. She expressed this blatant prejudice when she says to Janie, “Ah can’t stand black niggers. Ah don’t blame de white folks from hatin’ ’em ’cause Ah can’t stand ’em mahself.” This is ironic because Mrs. Turner’s livelihood relies on the business of black people and workers in the town. Mrs. Turner also believed that she could ‘help’ Janie by introducing her to her brother who had a much lighter complexion and “dead straight hair” (Hurston 167). She believed that Janie should abandon her husband and remarry someone else just on the basis of skin tone.
It was clear that Mrs. Turner valued everything white and hated everything black. She took it even so far as to say that she only visits white doctors and will refuse t be seen by black doctors (Hurston 166). It is stated in the novel that “like all other believers [she] had built an altar to the unattainable—Caucasian characteristics for all” (Hurston 170). Mrs. Turner’s character is so bewildering because she is associating herself with a people and belief system who openly and actively discriminate against her. But then again, Mrs. Turner actually believed that she deserved this discrimination and prejudice as punishment for the blackness that was inherently part of her. She felt like it was an evil; a burden that she had been so unfortunately chosen to bear. Instead of resenting racism she actually propagates it and places whiteness on a pedestal. According to Mrs. Turner’s beliefs, “anyone who looked more white folkish than herself was better than she was…[and] therefore it was right that they should be cruel to her at times, just as she was cruel to those more negroid than herself in direct ratio to their negroness.” (Hurston 169-170). She truly believed that the racism she endured and inflicted was just and deserved. Not once was never any desire for equality.
Another ironic moment in Mrs. Turner’s rant is when she accuses Janie of being “sorter hypnotized” by Tea Cakes love, which, in her eyes, is wrong because he is dark skinned. In reality, she is the one who has been hypnotized by the overblown institution of racism at the time. Mrs. Turner is an extreme example of the twisted effects of racism and intolerance. She chose to associate herself with the white side of racism and heritage because in her eyes it might somehow save and deliver her to “her paradise—a heaven of straighthaired, thin-lipped, high-nose boned white seraphs” (Hurston 170).
Mrs. Turner was deeply dissatisfied with her life and position on the totem pole of race. In conversation, she mentions to Janie that “De black ones is holdin’ us back,” and that they “oughta class off” (Hurston 165). She knew she could never truly attain the whiteness that she desired and she felt trapped by her blackness. Therefore, she thinks that a new race for she and Janie should be created. From Mrs. Turner’s perspective, anything is better than being associated with darker skinned African Americans. She believes that women like herself and Janie should only marry white men and “lighten up de race” (Hurston 165). This statement leaves Janie at a loss. She is not interested in ‘classing off’ nor does she give much attention to her heritage. Janie pays little attention to her racial status; perhaps because she is content and happy in her love with tea Cake.
It is interesting how Hurston manages to bring so many elements of the impact of racism into one character. Mrs. Turner was a product of the society she was in. White people reigned in her understanding in the world and it was her hope that if she could embrace the part of her heritage that was white, she might evade some of the suffering that accompanied being an African American. Mrs. Turner was so complex because she genuinely accepted a social system that oppressed and discriminated against her and even took part in it herself. She was a perverse response to an extensive institution of racism.
Harlem Renaissance Movement and Zora Neale Hurston’s Novel
In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, the opening contains a vivid description of a town called Sawley. Sawley is located in west Florida and is conveniently placed on the Suwanee River. Hurston thoroughly describes both Sawley and its residents. Hurston effectively uses evocative imagery, several types of repetition, and parallelism in order to illustrate Sawley and to characterize the people who live there in the opening of her novel, Seraph on the Suwanee.
Throughout the passage, Hurston inserts adjectives before each noun in order to bring the town to life. In the first paragraph alone, the author details the “curving course” of the river and even explains how it is “running swift and deep through the primitive forests”. Additionally, she mentions the “scratchy plantings”. By consistently using epithet, Hurston is able to illuminate a vivid image in the reader’s mind which, in essence, helps her describe Sawley. The author follows the same technique when describing the people who live in Sawley. Even though she only directly mentions it once, the kind of people living in Sawley is clearly conveyed. In lines 16 through 20, she finally discusses the residents of Sawley. Hurston claims that the people look like the trees and plants, and even mentions that that is the case for all instances. As Hurston continues to use imagery through heavily connotated words, it helps the audience to literally imagine the town and people of Sawley. The descriptive words and adjectives illustrate Sawley for the reader.
Furthermore, Hurston occasionally uses anaphora with the aim to emphasize important facts regarding Sawley. For example, in the third paragraph, the author uses anaphora by repeating “there was” in lines 24 and 27 at the beginning of two sentences. By including “there was,” the reader realizes the past tense in which she discusses the sandy pike. Her use of anaphora in the past tense foreshadows changes that will occur in the future, hence her bitter comment regarding the newly built freeway that interrupted the historic Old Spanish Trail. Additionally, in lines 31, 33, and 40, Hurston continuously uses the word “few” in order to emphasize two major underlying meanings. The repetition of “few” is most likely there to help convey the lack of people in this lightly populated town. It also expresses her feelings towards the forgotten Sawley that she particularly remembers. She wants to make it clear that life in Sawley was good while also mentioning that it was forgotten; only a few people remembered.
Last, Hurston uses parallelism and reoccurring syntax to bring Sawley to life. The author realized that simply describing a town and people with lively words would not achieve as much as partnering it up with useful sentence structure would. In the first paragraph, Hurston combines parallelism and alliteration by explaining the “cultivated fields planted to corn, cane, potatoes, tobacco and small patches of cotton”. Although the alliteration is subtle, the repeating sounds of “c” at the beginning of the words creates a memorable sentence. The sentence follows a parallel structure as well. However, this is not the first time that Hurston uses this repetitive syntax. As the passage continues, the author discusses the disgusting actions performed by the Spaniards; including “murdering, robbing, and raping”. Moreover, she begins to express the fishing opportunities that Sawley offered, “plenty of black bass, and perch and cat-fish”. Her use of parallelism provides a sense of rhythm and order for the reader. Subconsciously, the audience processes this town as a tranquil, calm location with serene people. However, if the passage lacked parallelism, the sentences would be choppy, which would then portray Sawley as a chaotic mess.
To conclude, in an effort to perfectly describe Sawley and the people who live there, Hurston provides the reader with detailed imagery, repetition, and consistent parallelism. The author was effectively able to illuminate the town and provide a perfect visual of the people living in it.
Improvise, Adapt and Overcome: Zora Hurston and Her Battle with Social Norms
With the birth of civilization humanity unleashed a great evil unto the world. Oppression. Something that has managed to survive to this very day. Hurston radical persona was forged by the standards and prejudgment that society compels the mass to abide by. Hurston argues despite what society has labeled her based on the color of her skin she has her own identity; she conveys this message in an unconventional way by using figurative language and as a result playing with the definition of an essay.
The importance of the picture that Hurston paints from the very beginning is to show that society has marked her for life based on the color of her skin. She goes as far as stating “to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame.” (2) Hurston tries to show the unique situation that society has puts on her from a very young age. She is judged as a member of a group rather than an individual. Anything that she does is being credited to her and the group that she is labeled as never just herself.
The purpose of this was to make sure the reader understands how she felt so they can understand her argument. She wants to make sure that the reader in a way relate or at the very least be able to follow how her mind is working.
Hurston rejects the idea of being judged based on the actions of the group that society put her in rather she identifies as her own group. Hurston wants the reader to understand this and tries to make sure that the reader understands how she feels when she states:
I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of Eatonville before the Hegira. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background… Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and over swept, but through it all, I remain myself. (2)
Hurston feels that she doesn’t belong with the group that society associates her with in fact she doesn’t associated with a color group. The only time she feels part of the group is when surrounded by white people, yet she feels that she is still her own person even in this extreme. Hurston does not feel a connection with any group in fact she connects closer to her childhood back before being labeled when she lived life foe fun to its fullest. Wants us to understand that she doesn’t connect with any group based on color.
Hurston’s tone and word choice help her deliver her message to the reader in gives us an insight in the liners of her mind. She has a positive tone when she talks about the hardships that she went through as a child. We see this hope that she has even when facing the dark evils that her history has when she states:
Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. … Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. It is thrilling to think–to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with the spectators not knowing whether to laugh or to weep. (2)
Hurston talks about how people try to connect her with her heritage and treat her differently because of it, but she feels that it should not define who she is as a person. Hurston word chose through this quote were positive when she was taking about negative things that most want to make her feel sorry for herself. She uses words such as glory, opportunity, thrilling and praise. Hurston wants the reader to understand that she does not feel a connection with the people who she is grouped with because all they do is whine about the situation that they are in. We start to she the picture of what Hurston’s point of view on life looks like.
Hurston purpose of including the story about at the jazz club with her friend was to show her disconnection with society. She tries to show how they both interrupted the music differently she went on a trip back to her homeland filled with emotion and her friend simply felt that the music was “good”. Hurston seems to not be part of the black community nor the white community but rather her own community. Further adding to the fact that she feels that she makes up her own community.
Hurston through the essay was playing with the idea that an essay is an experiment very much like what D’Agata visons an essay to be. She used fugitive language a lot to deliver her message. First example of this was when she states: “… but it was a gallery seat for me. My favorite place was atop the gatepost. Proscenium box for a born first-nighter.” (1) She attempts to make the reader visualize her point that she was always center of attention but didn’t know why giving us an insight into the mind of when she was a child. A second example of this was when she wrote “I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow … could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly.” (3) She used this analogy to tell the reader that she believes that we are not as different as we make it out to be. Hurston used fugitive language to make it easier for the reader to follow what Is going on in her mind.
Hurston’s writing supports D’Agata’s idea that an essay is an experiment. But makes us start to question. What is not an essay? It makes us rethink how we define an essay. Is it just a form of communication that helps us get an idea from point a to point b or is it more than that? This essay supports the idea that its more than a form of communication. Its human nature to want to include our feelings and creativity to anything we do so why is the essay an exemption well it isn’t.
Zora Neale Hurston – Quotes and Biography
We always hear about these amazing leaders in this time period or this fantastic era, but we always miss out on the people who made a difference and day by day… their names fade in the sea of water that one pure, has now become brine. A woman who had something to say when times were against her will, a woman who did not let the “impossible” stop her from trying. Her name was Zora Neale Hurston. She was a Folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, short story writer, and a filmmaker. Before her name is forgotten as time passes by, let me tell you who this woman was and what she did that affects us today without knowing.
Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7,1891. She was born in a town in Alabama, however, she was just a toddler when her family decided to move to Eatonville, Florida. Zora grew up in a culturally affirming household in an eight room house on five acres of land. Her relationship with her father was not too well, but her mother was a whole different story. Her mother was always so supportive and encouraging, “jump at de sun” her mother would say to Zora and her seven other siblings. I’m sure that is where Zora gets her optimistic attitude from. As time passed by, Zora had attended three colleges in her lifetime. She never waited before continuing to study.
Zora was a free spirited and brave woman in every way possible. She had a one of a kind intellect and had an admirable sense of humor. She would always say she was 10 years younger than she actually was, but she would always pull off her sneaky lies because she was a beautiful woman. Her eyes were heartwarming, cheerful, and confident. She had high cheekbones, as well as a full and graceful mouth. Her face was always speaking for her as she always displayed her emotions through her facials. She was a character full of life and full of curiosity. Zora used these talents and characteristics to push her way into the “Jazz Age” in the 1920s.
Zora’s career spanned over 30 years when she started her career in 1935. Her first work was a folktale called “Mules and Men”, this folktale was published in 1935 and was regarded as “one of the best works on folklore and culture of the blacks”. Zora was the first to research folklore at the level she did, she was a professional. Most of her work focuses on issues during her time period, most common problem of all was racism. She had no problem saying her opinion and talking about her ways of living life, “I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions”. She was mostly known for her intelligence, irreverence, and unique writing style. She was brave and had achieved fame and success in her lifetime, but she also went through times of shame and being forgotten by others.
Haven gone through that, she still got back up on her two feet and kept going. Zora had contributed to the acceptance of African Americans in America through her writings. She celebrated her black rural culture and heritage in a time where her people were ashamed and would try to deny or forget it who they really were. Near her passing date, she was aware that she had no money to afford a headstone for herself. Feeling left out, she wrote an argument to defend her people from being forgotten and left behind in segregated cemeteries that would be abandoned. She wrote, “Let no negro celebrity, no matter what financial condition they might be in at death, lie in inconspicuous forgetfulness. We must assume the responsibility of their graves being known and honored.” She also fought back to a decision by the Brown V. Board to federally mandated integration. She responded, “no tragedy in being too dark to be invited to a white school social affair.” This controversy is actually a topic that is still discussed till this very day.
Zora as well as supporting her people, she also supported her gender. Zora was a support to women’s rights and their personal choices. In her most successful novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, a character named Janie was married to a man who treated her as nothing but property. However, Janie decided to decided to ignore society’s expectations and chooses to appreciate and love herself instead. Janie got married three times in her lifetime and ends up losing her third husband. Janie was said to be “alone”, but not “lonely”. Zora had made this character as a woman who was finding herself and what she truly wanted. Janie was a confident character that never had enough of herself. Thanks to the support of feminist writers like Alice Walker, Zora’s work had come to light once again.
In conclusion, Zora Neale Hurston is a symbol and inspiration that showed that when trying to fight for your rights, your freedom, and acceptance in society… They’re many ways to speak up and present your arguments into a sensitive and critical world. She tried her best and succeeded in bringing a powerful debate in the civil rights movement. She was an average girl in a time of racial segregation who was not afraid to be herself and defend her people against the show that blinds many till this day. An inspiration and a symbol of hope and acceptance forever, Zora Neale Hurston.
The Death and Rebirth of Zora Neale Hurston
In this unit on the African American experience in colonial and pre-Civil War America, several ‘heroes’ have both appeared and been discussed in class while others still remain to be explored in more detail which are:Frances Harper,Harriet Wilson,Jack Johnson,George Herriman,Eubie Blake,Arthur W. Mitchel,…etc. But the one heroine that I really love and I’m going to talk about that person in my project is Zora Neale Hurston. Zora Neale Hurston was born in January 7 1891. She was a talented American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. One of her four most popular novels back then was “Their Eyes Were Watching God’. It was published in 1937. In 1938, she published her research on Haitian Vodou by a book named:”Tell My Horse-Voodoo And Life in Haitian And Jamaica’. This book is based on her personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica as an initiate rather than just an observer during her visits in the 1930s and it’s about Voodoo practices,rituals,and beliefs. It is a travelogue into a dark,mystical world that offers a vividly authentic picture of ceremonies,customers,and superstitions. And she described racial struggles in the early 20th century American South. Hurston also wrote a lot of short stories, essays and even plays.
Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama where her father grew up and her paternal grandfather was the preacher of a Baptist church. She was the fifth child in her family out of eight children. Four of her grandparents (on both of her parents’ sides) were born into slavery. Her father was a carpenter but before that he was a Baptist preacher and sharecropper. Her mom was a teacher and she taught students at school. Then in 1894 when she was three years old, she moved to Eatonville, Florida with her family. In 1887, it was one of the first all-black towns incorporated in the United States. She sometimes claimed it was her birthplace since her family moved there when she was too young. A few years later, her father was elected as mayor of the town in 1897. In 1902 he was called to serve as minister of its largest church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist. As Hurston grew up to an adult usually used Eatonville as a setting of her story which was a place where African Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. In 1901, some northern school teachers had a visit to where Hurston lived and they gave her some books that helped her opened her mind to literature. Later, she described this personal literary awakening as a kind of ‘birth’. In her 1928 essay ‘How It Feels To Be Colored Me’, she described the experience of growing up in Eatonville for the rest of her childhood. Hurston’s mother died in 1904, and her father subsequently married Mattie Moge in 1905. This was considered scandalous, as it was rumored that he had had sexual relations with Moge before his first wife’s death. Hurston’s father and stepmother sent her to a Baptist boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. They eventually stopped paying her tuition and she was dismissed.
In 1916, Hurston was employed as a maid by the lead singer of the Gilbert & Sullivan theatrical company. In 1917, she resumed her formal education, attending Morgan College, the high school division of Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore, Maryland. At this time, apparently to qualify for a free high-school education, the 26-year-old Hurston began claiming 1901 as her year of birth. In 1918, she graduated from the high school of Morgan State University.
Later on, she used Eatonville as the setting for most of her stories. It is now the site of the ‘Zora! Festival’, held each year in her honor. She used to be a student at Barnard College and Columbia University. There, she conducted anthropological and ethnographic research. She was really interested in African-American and Caribbean folklore, and how these contributed to the community’s identity. Hurston also wrote fiction about contemporary issues in the black community and became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance.
Life Story of One Person
Zora Neale Hurston was a writer who did not concern herself with the issues that surrounded her, the main one being the issue of race. It was her world and people were just living in it. She thought it was better to be colored that way she could stand out, she knew that she was someone special so why would she want to fit in with everyone else. Hurston made the statement, “…I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in the company with other bags, white, red, and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless.” Hurston did not see color; in other words, she knew that people had different skin colors, but Hurston never paid any mind to that because it was what was on the inside that made everyone equal and showcased their personalities.
Hurston knew that people had similar characteristics, but they also possessed some differences. An example of this is when Hurston and a white person go to The New World Cabaret and she finds herself lost in the music and imagines herself as this African warrior in the jungle, wanting to kill and when the music’s over she looks over to the person who is just sitting all calm and collected. She makes the comment “The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him. He has only heard what I felt… He is so pale with his whiteness then and I am so colored.” This shows a strong stereotype among two different cultures, that white people do not appreciate music like black people do.
Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston were both writers that focused on the treatment of African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston did not shed any bad light on the African American community because in her eyes it was already an uplifted race, she saw nothing wrong. Langston Hughes was the complete opposite; he wrote how African Americans were portrayed in the eyes of white people. In his poem, “I, Too”, Hughes shows the struggles that African Americans had to deal with on a daily basis. Hughes wrote “I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes” This is a huge contradiction compared to how Hurston views the treatment of African Americans. She was a happy unconcerned person that never saw an issue among races, unlike Hughes where this was one of his main concerns in his writing.
Zora Neale Hurston identified as a person of color since she grew up in a town where the only white people, she saw were the ones driving through on their way to Orlando. She never concerned herself with race and knew that what was on the inside really made the person themselves. Langston Hughes was on the other side of the spectrum. He saw the treatment of African Americans in the eyes of white people and wanted to bring awareness to that issue. Hurston is “too busy sharpening my oyster knife” to be concerned about the feelings or concerns of the people around her.
Literary Analysis Of How It Feels To Be Colored Me By Zora Neale Hurston
The literary analysis I’m writing over is “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston. She is an African American Modernist writer who conveyed a surprisingly positive, opportunistic, and realistic outlook on what it was like for her to live through racism.
Hurston grew up in an exclusively colored town in Eatonville, Florida. She was innocently unaware of the differences between herself and the differences outside her community.
Hurston was sent to Jacksonville far from Orange County where she grew up in her predominantly black town. She quickly became aware of the color of her skin and the difference it made within her life. Hurston is in a very different setting than the community she was in where she had nothing to worry about. She didn’t let racism phase her personality of being genuinely nice to everyone. She managed to put the idea of slavery behind her, and look forward to the opportunities before her. She states, “I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it.” She was optimistic that she could achieve what she wanted to and convinced that life would afford her plenty of opportunities as long as she seized them. This quote embodies the opportunistic and powerful attitude that Hurston had adopted towards her life. She was focused on the future and what she could achieve with her own. She even manages to capture the feelings of discontent which were observable in some of her peers; that they had been wronged in some way by being African American. In a way the pessimism displayed by some of the African Americans she knew helped only to motivate her more and see her dreams actualized.
In fact, Hurston had discovered a novel and positive way of viewing the circumstances that she found herself in. The time period which she was living in was focused on how African Americans would contribute and integrate with the society that they had previously been excluded from. This awareness and pressure to succeed could have produced feelings of negativity and nervousness, yet somehow Hurston managed to focus on the wonderful chance she was given to be in the spotlight. She states, “I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame.” Instead of caving under the pressure of the circumstances she found herself in, she chose to rise to the challenge of asserting herself as an African American in a racially developing nation.
Hurston managed to overcome the rigid and structural nature of race by engaging and interacting with the art and music which was present in American culture at that time. She describes a scene where she is sitting with a white male at a night club The New World Cabaret. Within this scene we begin to see some of the differences between Hurston and her companion. The music is a chaotic presentation of the Jazz which was enjoyed by so many African Americans at the time. She manages to associate feelings of nativity, jubilation, and exaltation with the orchestra’s performance. She connects the performance with the African American culture that she is shackled to, yet she has managed to free herself in many aspects. The scene she depicts within the club captures the multiplicity of Hurston’s self. She is wild, untamed, and natively fused with the music and emotions she is experiencing. She truly enjoys being herself, yet something is still missing for her. When she returns from her musical adventure she notices her white companion is not absorbed in the music as she is. He has sat and listened just as she did, but an expansive space still lingers between them. She simply cannot understand how he is not captured by the music as she is. He appears to be far away almost observing from a distance cautiously. Within the context of comparison it is easy for Hurston to examine and diagnose the differences their races display. She delves deeper though trying to identify what they have in common and this is how Hurston manages to overcome the boundary of race between them.
Hurston manages to surmount the differences in race with an approach that dissolves the obvious differences which are visual. The affinity which she has for the music and art that is influencing the nation at the time is the key to her success. Instead of remaining complacent and accepting that she is different from her white peers she looks for ways in which they are similar. However the club produces an awkward scenario for her to deal with. In this way music becomes the tool the Hurston uses to break down the walls of difference and awkwardness which separate her from her white friend. Music has no race, no prejudices, and no need to be anything other than music. You do not need to be an African American to appreciate jazz, and Hurston leads the way for her white companion to experience something new and dissolve the racial boundaries between them. She delivers an exclusive opportunity for both of them to simply be human beings instead of black and white.
Zora Hurston embodies a consciousness and self-awareness which could be observed in many white males at the time. Is it surprising that she displays this behavior due to the fact that she is an African American woman? I believe that Hurston was able to achieve a level of self-awareness due to the fact that she was happy to actively engage with people no matter what their gender or race. Even as a child Hurston was naturally interested in anyone she came across. The openness that she displayed toward people allowed her to inevitably experience and find herself in situations that many other African American women at that time may not have. In turn the experiences she had may have helped her to gain awareness and multiple viewpoints that many people might not achieve. Hurston notices the awkwardness that she feels when surrounded by many white people at the park, almost as if she is out of her comfort zone. She is likewise aware of the unfamiliarity that her white companion feels when accompanying her to the jazz club. Their evening at the jazz club is almost a repeated experiment for Hurston. She observes and questions why her friend is so different from herself. Hurston pushes and probes at all of the details encompassing the interaction. Without her exploration of the uncomfortable and unknown she would undoubtedly be a completely different woman. She is adventurous in her exploration of ideas, places, and people which exist outside of her comfort zone. This is the reason why Hurston so valiantly surpassed the social and racial barriers which stood before her.
Self Realization in a Hard World by Zora Neale Hurston
Self-Realization in a Hard World
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s journey exemplifies the struggles African American women faced in exchange for their personal happiness and wishes in the 20th century in order to find their true identity.
African Americans have dealt with racism; primarily, women have dealt with sexism. African American women were restricted through male dominance or through parents who believed in male dominance values. African American women married to their guardian or parents’ choice because of these values; specifically, their parents often wished to marry them off to men with high social status in hopes of social advancement.
With that context, the author, Zora Neale Hurston, portrays Janie’s character going through a series of events including a few marriages which lead her to finally realize and accept the independent and expressive person she realizes herself to be at the end of the novel.
Nanny, Janie’s grandmother, was the only guardian that Janie ever had. She raises Janie and wishes the best for her. Nanny’s hopes for Janie are influenced by the fact that Nanny was a former slave and gave birth to Leafy, Janie’s mother, who was later raped by her white schoolteacher at the age of 17. Leafy became an alcoholic and abandoned Janie when she was young. Nanny wanted Janie to have a peaceful and prosperous life in comparison to Leafy’s or her own life. Consequently, Nanny tried to find an acceptable man for Janie against her will by completely ignoring her wishes after she saw Janie kiss Johnny Taylor. Nanny vows to get her granddaughter married to a wealthy man who can provide for Janie and take her far away from the life that Nanny and Leafy had. Nanny viewed Johnny Taylor as someone who used Janie for his personal pleasures and then leave her just like how Nanny and Leafy had been used by the men in their lives. Nanny says, “Tain’t Logan Killicks Ah wants you to have, baby, it’s protection. Ah ain’t getting’ ole, honey. Ah’m done ole… Mah daily prayer now is tuh let dese golden moments rolls on a few days longer till Ah see you safe in life… You ain’t got nobody but me. Neither can you stand alone by yo’self. De thought uh you bein’ kicked around from pillar tuh post is uh hurtin’ thing.” (Hurston 15) Nanny’s tone expresses her concern for Janie’s safety based of her experiences of abuse through slavery.
For Nanny, it is all about creating a higher place in society which she is spending her last days doing for Janie as she states, “Neither can you stand alone by yo’self.” which explains Nanny’s belief in male dominance. She is saying that a woman cannot survive without the help of a man and assigning traditional gender roles of men as breadwinners and women as caretakers. This view binds Janie in a marriage that traps her will to be independent and capable. She wants Janie to have the freedom that she never had which was a middle class life with financial stability. Due to Nanny’s wish, Janie forcefully entered a marriage with a respected farmer named Logan Killicks and expressed her unhappiness to Nanny: “Well, if he do all dat whut you come in heah wid uh face long as mah arm for?” Nanny said. “Cause you told me Ah wuz gointer love him, and, and Ah don’t. Maybe if somebody was to tell me how, Ah would do it.” Janie repliedNanny responded, “You come head wid yo’ mouf full uh foolishness on uh busy day. Heah you got uh prop tuh lean on all yo’ bawn days, and big protection, and everybody got tuh tip dey hat tuh you and call you Mis’ Killicks, and you come worryin’ me ‘bout love.” (Hurston 23) Janie is forced into a loveless marriage and is drawn into marriage at Nanny’s request with false reassurance that marriage will lead to love just so that she is financially stable with Logan Killicks. For Nanny, this marriage was a respectable act; however, it tarnished Janie’s view of happiness and her search for her individuality.
Janie’s first husband, Logan Killicks, treated her like his possession. The way he treated his mule was how he treated Janie. He continuously put her to work and never allowed her to have a say in anything. From her marriage with Logan Killicks, she begins to realize that what Nanny promised was incorrect. Their marriage never led to love. In the novel, the narrator states, “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman” (Hurston 25). Janie became lifeless as becoming the wife of a farmer simply transformed her into an obedient animal who does his farm work: “Looka heah, LilBit, help me out some. Cut up dese seed taters fuh me. Ah got tuh step off a piece… Ah aims tuh run two plows, and dis man Ah’, talkin’ ‘bout is got uh mule all gentled upso even uh woman kin handle ‘im.” (Hurston 27)Nanny did not have running a mule in mind for Janie when she married her off to Logan. Janie never volunteered to help Logan out with his farm, but, he didn’t ask and signed her up to work for him because she became his property after marriage. As per Nanny’s wishes, Janie gained protection from the cruel, racist, and sexist world, but dragged herself into a world where she did not want to belong.
Due to this and after Nanny’s death, she had to take her future in her own hands because this was a life that she never had choose to live and would not continue to bear. Her marriage to Logan Killicks transformed her into a responsible woman who learned that her future could only be handled by herself and no other. After marrying him, she self-realizes that there’s more that she wants. She is not okay with just being an asset to his farm and being treated like a mule. Janie sees him as a barrier to her vision of true love, often reminiscing her experiences under the blossoming pear tree and imagining her life in the search for true love and identity. She had always had doubts about her marriage with Logan but silenced her voice and wishes in order to cooperate with her grandmother who was traumatized by her own experiences only to find herself struggling more with another man.
Within Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie’s journey mainly took her through racism and sexism which is primarily what African American women faced in exchange for their happiness in the 20th century. For every relationship, she struggled to find her voice because every time, it was silenced. Janie’s search for self-realization came after she continued to grow as a person from her experiences while trying to find her happiness and especially, her true identity which she could be comfortable with. Her relationships with others marked a special meaning in her life leading up to self-realization of being an African American woman in her community.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Night Vale Hurston; Gender Difference during the late 1800s and into the early 1900s
During the 1900, woman specifically african american women, were treated as property of men in the United States mainly down south, in states like Georgia and Florida. Woman were forced into submission and there was nothing they could do about it. In the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, Zora Neale Hurston shows the problem of gender roles through the story of a young african american woman named Janie, who struggled through an arranged marriage and through multiple characters as well as the plot, sexism comes to the surface.
In the beginning of this novel is evident the roles of men and women play a very big part in the book “ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. Or some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever… Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything that I don’t want to forget”. In this opening paragraph of their eyes were watching God, Hurston compares the wishes and dreams of men and women in particularly interesting way.
By using the sea as a symbol she is saying that men can never really control their dreams, just wait for them to come true. While women on the other hand, can take their jeans into their own hands, molding them as they see fit. Making this comparison establishes the theme of gender differences between lea by using the sea as a symbol she is saying that men can never really control their dreams, just wait for them to come true. While women on the other hand, can take their jeans into their own hands, molding them as they see fit. Making this comparison establishes the theme of gender differences throughout the novel, and ultimately foreshadows the fact that JaNia is going to struggle yet will stop at nothing to achieve what she sets her mind to.
After first setting the tone nanny is introduced her traditional values of womanly roles such as cooking and cleaning lead us to believe that JaNia will be the same but when Janie kisses Johnny Taylor, her view of men changes after seeing “a dust-bearing the sink into the sanctum of a bloom; The thousand sister calyxes arch to meet the love in brace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from route to the tiniest branch cleaning in every blossom and frothing with the light. So this was a marriage she had been summoned to be holding a revelation” this paragraph is one of the most important if not the most in the whole book. Comparing love to the relationship between a B and it’s flour, Jane Jane he suddenly crates, love, passion, and above all, someone she can consider her equal. Unfortunately though, equality was a foreign concept during this time period.
Men were seen as”all powerful”, Considered the sole providers and the only ones allowed to hold any sort of office or high status job. Woman on the other hand where the complete opposite.Ingenious first relationship, it is clear that this is not the Equality she has hoped for. Logan Killicks an elderly, black man her grandmother has arrange for her to marry treats JaNia like a servant and not like a wife at all there is no love president, and every day is a chore even though nanny knows JaNia is not happy she insists the marriage is a good one “heah yo is wid de onliest organ, amonst colored folks, in yo’ parole. Got a house bought and paid for and sixty acres uh land right on de big road… Lawd have mussy! Dats de very prong all is black womenswear gits hung on” in nanny speech, Hurston is trying to emphasize that the females only role is to marry and look good and let the man do all the work. When Joe “Jody” Starks appears out of nowhere, Janie feels like her dreams have finally come true. But after a while the marriage turns out to be a little more than the student with Killicks Starks, like Killicks treats her as property and not as someone who actually loves. One example is how Jody make Janie put her hair up in a rap while working in the store rather than leave it down. Another is when he publicly criticize her periods, saying she is starting to show her age, when he is clearly at least 10 years older “you ain’t no young courtin’ gal. You’se uh old woman, nearly fourty”. Joe feels the need to tear down Janie, in order to make himself feel more important, which was an important part of being a man during this time.
By reading The novel their eyes were watching God by Zora Night Vale Hurston, one could immediately pick up on the difference gender played during the late 1800s and into the early 1900s wow women were expected to stay at home and clean and take care of children, men work to provide for their families and were considered far superior. While these prejudice have slowly gotten better over time most of them still exist to a small extent in today society. Through the characters attitudes and narratives especially Janie’s relationships and the society’s feelings as a whole their eyes were watching God clearly displays the social issues of sexism and gender roles.