Zora Neale Hurston Short Stories
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.
The Life Struggle Of Zora Neale Hurston In How It Feels To Be Colored Me
Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance that was born January 7, 1891, and died January 28, 1960, she was revolutionary in helping protect the rights of African Americans. She is known for ‘How it Feels to be Colored Me’ that was writing in 1927 exerts what it means to be a black person in a world that is mostly dominated by white people and how she discovers her identity and pride, she uses Metaphors and Imagery to help her argument.
In the beginning, she talks about how she grew up in an all-black town in Florida but never thought much of her race. While growing up there she would see white people come from out of town, but they were never rude or mean to her as a matter a fact she would welcome them into the town and perform but not because she wanted money she just enjoyed it. When she moved to Jacksonville at the age of thirteenth to attend school is when she realized she was colored, not because she didn’t know she was black but because people cared what skin color she was that never happened to her at her old town where she was never different. In the text she adds how she went from ‘Zora from Orange County’ to the little ‘colored girl’ this is a great example of pathos because of the emotional change she was going through, people would always remind her of her skin color and how she was the granddaughter of a slave, but she refused to be sad about something that happens a long time ago meaning that slavery was over and they were in a new era. She was most surprised and confused and now aware of her skin color and what comes along with it. After that, she uses a metaphor that helps the secondary claim of how she wasn’t going to let what other people say depress her which was about how the ‘operation was a success and the patient is doing well’. The operation meaning slavery and the patient meaning colored people which basically saying that slavery is done, and they are doing well so why are there still problems. In addition, Hurston uses Imagery when she talks about her feeling more colored when thrown against a sharp white background meaning when she is around many white people she feels different when she knows she shouldn’t they are all people just like her and the only difference is the skin.
Another example she uses would be when she was at Barnard that she attended from 1925-1928. ‘Besides the waters of the Hudson’she feels her race even if there are thousands of white people she is ‘a rock that is surged and overslept’ but she remains herself and nothing will change Which helps the imagery she was talking about nothing was going to change her skin or what she was, so she was going to be her. However, she has also seen it in reverse, towards the end of the reading she talks about an experience she encountered while going to college when she went to a nightclub with a white friend. As they entered the club the orchestra was playing wild jazz and Hurston began to dance wildly like if she was’ living in the jungle’ which is a simile to compare the way she was dancing to someone who is living in the jungle which is a place of the wild. When she turns to look at the white friend he is sitting down quietly just taping his fingers to the beat, he doesn’t have much emotion towards the music and doesn’t have the same effect as she does. She then notices quickly how different they are not a race but culture he wasn’t as into the music as she was because she grew up listening to that music and he didn’t feel what she felt when hearing the orchestra. She sees how different people are and how cultures are so far apart like with her white friend that is surrounded by people of color. In this part of the reading is when she realizes how yes, they are different but have a similar problem.
Another metaphor Hurston uses is at the end of the reading is when she describes how’ people are like colored bags’ each filled with hopes, desires, disappointment and other things that happen in life and if the bags were to be emptied out they would be the same regardless of the color of the bag which is the skin of people. This is a great metaphor because she basically compared everyone to bags that are filled with emotions that all human beings have no matter the race feel on a daily the only difference is the color of the bag. Everyone is the same so why aren’t they treated the same as what comes out of that metaphor. Before she talks about the bag metaphor she brings up how she ‘sometimes feels discriminated against’ however that doesn’t bring her down or make her feel like she’s nothing she is who she is and is proud of it nobody will ever tell her otherwise. That’s basically her message in the reading of how to think of each other as individuals and not just one thing and argues it with the experience she has had as an African American during the Harlem Renascence.
Zora’s tone throughout the whole reading is positive, she never gets depressed or feels bad about the color of her skin or the challenges she’s achieved instead she celebrates herself and her race, she loves herself and wants everyone to do the same. This reading is a great example of both ethos and pathos because Zora experienced this while growing up and has credibility and makes the reader not feel sad about what she has gone through because of her race but makes them embrace what she feels. The way she arranges her reading is a great way to help her argument, from talking about her childhood and how she grew up with changes in her life to experiences she had while going to school and being out in the real world. She takes a different approach on how she is discriminated, she isn’t like other people who talk about discrimination and how she is blue or that she hates her life, she takes on a different path of how good she feels about herself regardless of the color of her skin. She does not feel pity towards herself but makes the best of who she is.
Perception of Black Culture as Depicted in Toppled from a Shrine’
For hundreds of years, the dominant culture in America has categorically underestimated black southern culture and vernacular, mistaking these segments of American life as largely simple, vulgar, and uneducated; Zora Neale Hurston sought to change those perceptions. One of her most significant attempts to do so is her first novel, Jonah’s Gourd Vine. Here, Hurston often changes the style of her narrative voice, going from a biblical tone in one moment to dry, journalistic writing in the next. She uses this technique to great effect during John’s divorce trial, creating a grand sense of tension that is immediately dashed in the eyes of the prejudiced white judge and jury. Furthermore, she is able to use John Pearson as a trickster from African folklore, putting the same judge and jury at the butt of a joke and making them look like fools for minimizing the complexity and depth of John and Hattie’s relationship. In a novel operating almost entirely within black communities, John’s divorce trial provides the largest and most significant interaction with white society. With this scene, Hurston uses metaphor, varying levels of diction, and the trickster archetype to demonstrate that white society has categorically underestimated the complexity of black life in the south at this time, and that that white people have made fools of themselves as a direct consequence.
In Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Hurston wields her mastery of language and of different levels of diction to promote the value of black culture. John’s divorce trial is one of the best examples of her talent; Hurston jumps, in this instance, from her unobtrusive narrative voice into a prophetic rant about the two-faced members of John’s congregation. She proclaims that there is “no fury so hot as that of a sycophant as he stands above a god that has toppled from a shrine,” not two paragraphs after talking about potato pones and corn-bread dressing (Hurston, 166). These words are distinctively biblical, not simply in talking about a god but in inverting a traditional word ordering (“no fury so hot”) to give the passage a biblical diction. This decisive and abrupt shift in language is meant to set up John’s trial as a pivotal point within the story, and it works very effectively. Everything about John and Hattie’s divorce is sanctified by Hurston’s words; it becomes a dire and sacred affair. Even Hattie, the antagonist of the scene, “was a goddess for a moment” (Hurston, 167). However, the tension and direness Hurston weaves in the pre-trial moments is immediately undone once the white judge takes his seat, “as a walrus would among a bed of clams” (167). Due to his own racism, the judge is blind to the intense personal drama playing out before his own eyes; Hurston says herself that the “waves of pang…in the room did not reach up to [his] bench” (167). This reality is reinforced even further by the abrupt shift in language once the trial begins. The prophetic voice is gone, and Hurston shies away from almost any descriptive language at all. It’s as if the text itself becomes as blind to John and Hattie’s complex emotional struggle just as the white jurors do.
With the divorce trial, Hurston is able to demonstrate that the black culture that white society sees as mundane is in fact rich with emotionality and drama on a biblical scale. By having John Pearson remain silent during his trial, Hurston sets him up to operate in the “trickster” archetype present in African and African-American folklore. As he explains to Hambo after the trial, he withheld information about Hattie practicing voodoo because “dey some things [white folks] ain’t tuh know” (Hurston 169). Much like Brer Rabbit from plantation folklore or Anansi the spider from African folklore, John is able to put himself in a position of power over a seemingly more powerful adversary (in this case white society as a whole) by outsmarting his observers through manipulation and secrecy. Furthermore, in the world of the novel, voodoo appears to be a legitimately powerful force; this potentiality is suggested through Lucy’s untimely demise and John’s initially complacent attitude toward his marriage with Hattie. By choosing to withhold the details of Hattie’s conjuring from the court, John is quite literally protecting a powerful form of magic from people who would not be able to understand nor control it. In this case voodoo serves as a metaphor, suggesting that there are incredibly valuable and powerful aspects of black folk culture that most of white society could not hope to comprehend. John acting as a trickster character in this setting inevitably puts the white jury members and judge, as well as all who underestimate black culture, at the brunt of the joke. In the eyes of the reader, this tactic severely undercuts the court members’ perceived sense of cultural superiority, making them the stupid ones in the scenario.
Through Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Hurston is able to turn racism into something that makes its perpetrators appear foolish. She rejected the idea of eschewing black stereotypes in favor of white cultural norms, instead choosing to promote the aspects of African-American culture that much of white society incorrectly viewed as primitive. As she stated in her essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” Hurston is not “tragically colored.” This idea is largely seen as a response to W. E. B. Du Bois’ theory of double consciousness, the idea that African Americans are divided in their identity between being black and being American. Rather than fit a predefined mold of what being “American” meant, Hurston chose to redefine those terms through glorifying and illustrating the beauty of everyday life for black Americans, thereby creating a new definition of American identity.
A Theme Of Freedom In “Song Of Myself” By Walt Whitman And “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” By Zora Neale Hurston
Freedom is beautifully illustrated in an endless amount of modern American literature. Freedom can be represented in different forms, by different artists, from completely different time periods. “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman was first published in 1855. Whitman’s version of freedom plays a huge part in “Song of Myself.” Another work that portrays freedom is Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” Both works, though they differ, illustrate the freedom of both authors in unique ways.
Walt Whitman was known for being quite frank in his discussions of sex and bodily functions which, during his time, was quite revolutionary. However, Walt didn’t solely discuss these things. In “Song of Myself,” the narrator himself and human kind are huge aspects. Whitman feels he is connected to all people. “I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and am not contained between my hat and my boots / … I am not an Earth nor an adjunct of an earth, / I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and fathomless as myself … ” Walt Whitman explains that he is one with the dying, as well as with newly born infants. He is not contained by himself and his body. He is the same as all people, and he is all people. Whitman is mortal, and he wonders when death will approach. However, it seems as though Whitman finds freedom in this feeling instead of feeling trapped by it. The feeling of being one with mankind is liberating for him.
Additionally, Whitman finds freedom in himself. He finds freedom in being himself, and knowing that he is human. As Ted Genoways put it in his essay “Inventing Walt Whitman,” “… we see the earliest example of that most American trick: self-invention. Walt had been born in a humble family of Quakers on Long Island, and his social standing had allowed him to rise no further than fleeting stints as editor of various small-time newspapers.” Whitman was born into a simple family, not wealthy but not in poverty. He found himself unable to improve his social standing, and therefore fashioned himself a dandy, complete with cane and boutonniere, trying to boost his status. Whitman rid himself of the fancy clothes in favor of the clothes of a common man, with his broad hat tipped back, beard thick and messy. “… he stood defiantly , one hand crooked at his hip, the other thrust in his pocket… he posed with his collar open, revealing a workingman’s undershirt. And this new persona required a new name; Walter became Walt.” Whitman finally came to embrace himself in 1855, for the frontispiece of Leave of Grass. And it seems as though he found some freedom in this- in embracing himself, his social status, and where he came from. As the opening stanza of “Song of Myself” reads, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you / …………….. / My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air, / Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same …” Whitman celebrates being himself and owns his background. He finds freedom in knowing and accepting these things.
Walt Whitman also revels in the freedom of natural world throughout “Song of Myself.” However, there seems to be little to no separation between humans and the natural world for Walt Whitman. He consistently compares and intertwines the two as though they’re one in the same. Whitman writes, “I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, / I am mad for it to be in contact with me. / The smoke of my own breath, / Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine, / My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my own heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs, / The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn … ” Whitman illustrates the beauty of the natural world in the smallest details. He also includes humans, himself, and human structures, the barn, when describing the nature he loves so much. Nature is freeing for Walt in the way that it’s natural, and yet still so magnificent and beautiful.
Another author who wrote of freedom is Zora Neale Hurston. Specifically, her essay entitled “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” Hurston finds freedom in a couple different things. One place in which Hurston finds freedom is in her home town, Eatonville, Florida. In “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” she writes of her town and the people there. She captures the mannerisms, mind-sets, and dialects of those from her home town. Hurston finds freedom in being part of her community. However, community is not the main source of Hurston’s freedom.
The main object of Zora Neale Hurston’s freedom is simply herself. Much like Walt Whitman, Hurston knows, loves, and embraces her background and herself. “Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me… I have paid through my ancestors for it.” She recognizes the price her ancestors have paid for her to be part of civilization, for her to be free.
However, Zora Neale Hurston doesn’t need her race to define her. “At certain times I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce… has nothing on me. The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.” Zora Neale Hurston empowers and frees herself. She is her own person, cosmic and beautiful and snooty regardless of her race.
Freedom isn’t an uncommon topic in American literature. However, it can be illustrated in many different ways. Walt Whitman and Zora Neale Hurston have both authored pieces that incapsulate their freedom. Walt Whitman, in “Song of Myself,” finds freedom in nature, the human experience, and himself. Zora Neale Hurston is empowered by her community and simply being her. Both “Song of Myself” and “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” illustrate the respective authors’ senses of freedom.
Hurston’s Novel TEWWG
In Hurston’s novel “TEWWG” she uses the characters to speak similarly to few others in American literature, and their vocabulary, distinctive grammar, and tone mark their individuality.
Humanity is the human race or human beings collectively, and Hurston uses things in her novel to make a point about humanity by including the pear tree, the horizon, janie’s hair, and the hurricane to define how humanity functions and the things that are given value by the human race.
The pear tree and the horizon reveal Janie’s glorified perspective of nature. In the bees’ interaction with the pear tree plants, janie observes a perfect second in nature, full of erotic energy, passionate interplay, and glad harmony. she chases after this ideal at some point of the rest of the book.
Similarly, the horizon represents the far-off thriller of the herbal global, with which she longs to connect. janie’s hauling in of her horizon “like a great fish-net” at the end of the radical event suggests that she has carried out the harmony with nature that she has sought since the second underneath the pear tree. Janie’s hair is a symbol of her strength and unique identity; it represents her durability and distinctiveness in three ways.
First, it signifies her self-reliance and defiance of lesser community standards. The town’s criticism at the start of the book demonstrates it is deemed degraded for a woman of Janie’s age to dress her hair down. Her defiance to bow down to their rules clearly mirror her powerful alienated spirit.
Second, her hair works as a phallic symbol; her braid is repeatedly described in phallic terms and works as a symbol of a typically male power and vigor, which confuses gender lines and threatens Jody.
Third, because of her hair’s straightness it is represented as a symbol of whiteness; Mrs. Turner praises Janie due to her Caucasian characteristics and straight hair. Her hair adds to the normally caucasian male strengths that she possesses, which assists her in distracting traditional power relationships (male over female, white over black) throughout the book.
Illustration of the African-American Experience through Racial Satire in “Filling Station”
Zora Neale Hurston’s Filling Station is a short comic story written in the 1930s and also included as part of the African-American: Graphic Classics Volume 22 published in 2011 (Hughes, Bois and Hurston). Hurston has two stories in the book, Lawing and Jawing and Filling Station.” Filling Station focuses on a sequence of amusing encounters in a gas station at the border of Alabama and Georgia. This tale was written in the 1930s when racial profiling was at its peak, and the oppression of black people was evident. The idea of the story is not so much in what is taking place but somewhat the pace and the feel of the performance. Milton Knight offers the illustrations of the story in the book bringing out the essence of the story through a perfect pairing of literature and art. Hurston aims to express the black experience and racial division at the time whilst conveying the celebration of black identity. Moreover, Knight’s illustrations aim to appreciate black art and literature as it is not greatly appreciated, as a few understand their true essence. Hurston uses humor and satirical language to illuminate the African-American experiences of discrimination and also black pride, in an effort to celebrate the black heritage further accentuated with Milton Knight’s illustrations of black art.
Hurston demonstrates the racial segregation and discrimination of African-Americans through satirical instances of the black experience in America. The Ford driver asserts, “Well, they tell me they don’t ‘low Y’all niggers to laugh on de streets in Georgy. They got laughin’ barrels on certain corners for niggers (Hughes, Bois and Hurston). This is a satirical instance that alludes to how black people had to use amenities that were preserved for them and could not use the white designated facilities. He also mentions that “…in Georgy they hate niggers so bad till one day they lynched a black mule for kickin a white one” (Hughes, Bois and Hurston). The author uses the satirical situation of a mule being lynched to demonstrate the level of racial prejudices and persecution of black people. During this period in history, black people in the South were subjected to extreme prejudice that included multiple lynching of African-Americans. Hurston uses humorous anecdotes to illustrate how as a black person they took pride in their own identity despite the social exclusion and discrimination.
Furthermore, Hurston utilizes the controversial depiction of the African-American speech as both racial satire and reverence to an exclusive dialect. For instance the phrase “Cause dem crackers Y’all got over there sho is hard on de black man” (Hughes, Bois and Hurston) is considered provocative as a racist representation of black speech. Some would deliberate this as a racist satire and others seeing it as an homage to a unique idiom (Williams). Hurston uses the speech as a parody to refer to how African-American are perceived and discriminated upon by the white folks. While at the same time embraces it as part of an exclusive Southern dialect and heritage of the black identity. Many of the jokes resonate with the old fights between slaves who boasted on how good their masters were to them. In the story, as they outspread into an argument about the qualities of Chevrolets and Fords they show the audience a source of pride in these men as they battle on whose car is better (Plant 88). The story fits perfectly with a black audience from the south. It also shows Hurston’s writing skills at her best, as she knits together pieces of African-American humor, classics, and contemporary ideologies.
Milton Knight’s illustrations of the comical story offer an intriguing combination of literature and art to appreciate black identity and heritage. The energy of Hurston’s dialogue of the 20th century Southern Black dialect is matched perfectly by Knight’s illustrations. Knight’s illustration conveniently reproduces that core, integrating both overstated elements of distortion and the rounded ends and upbeat colors related to hip-hop and graffiti drawing (Williams). Knight combines the narrative that celebrates blackness with contemporary elements of black pride to illustrate the African-American heritage with reverence. Moreover, the animation portrayal of the proficient, confident, beautiful female character with her imbalanced brimmed fedora, wavy hair, prominent cheekbones and vastly arched eyebrows (Williams). Knight makes very insightful artistic selections by crowding each section with energetic hues, adaptable bodies, and ferocious expressions to make evident of Hurston’s outrageous folk humor and wordplay. His wild illustrations increase the hyper vitality of this border-clash tale. During the course of the narrative, the text and the art are good enough to deserve the attention of readers who have no special interest in black literature or comics.
Hurston’s Filling Station provides a satirical platform to express the black experience in America in order to appreciate black heritage and identity whilst Knight’s contemporary illustrations accentuates the theme. Hurston as an outspoken black woman and writer portrays her courage and strength in every story that she tells. She emphasizes gender equality and the strength of a woman. Filling Station portrays a better understanding of the society that we live in and the stereotypical ideologies that we have toward people of different race, religion or background. The graphic illustration of the narrative shows a new side to art that not many people are aware it exists. The writing and art are great to be worthy of the attention of readers who have no distinct curiosity in black literature or comics. The variety of material is extensive in style and subject. The story was written and set in a time that is different from now; from the literature evolving and art itself but it still feels friendly and understood. The story shines a light on many things including black pride and the stigma of racial discrimination. Filling Station is a story that tells the audience a lot of things that are not from the story but from the words used to express these characters that see themselves as two different people but are the same in how they perceive the world.
Hughes, Langston, W. E. B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston. African-American Classics (Graphic Classics, Vol. 22). Eureka, 2011.
Plant, Deborah G. “The Inside Light”: New Critical Essays on Zora Neale Hurston. ABC-CLIO, 2010.
Williams, Kristian. “Black Classics Reborn, Graphically .” IN THESE TIMES 10 April 2012. Online.