Taking a Chance in Hurston’s Novels, Their Eyes Were Watching God and Seraph on the Suwanee
“‘All right then, you name somethin’ and we’ll do it. We kin give it uh poor man’s trial anyhow.’”
“‘Anyhow Ah done got rested up and de bed bugs is done got too bold round heah. Ah didn’t notice when mah rest wuz broke. Ah’m goin’ out and look around and see whut we kin do. Ah’ll give anything uh common trial.’”
pp. 168-69; Their Eyes Were Watching God
“Arvay woke up next morning with hope and determination. Nothing beats trial but a failure, Arvay decided. She might not win Jim back, but she meant to give it a poor man’s trial. That is the best that she could do. If she failed, it was not going to be because she never tried.”
p. 316; ...view middle of the document...
The use of active, present-tense verbs makes the passage vibrant and lifelike. It is clear to the reader from this passage that the couple is happy and confident in themselves; they will give most anything “a poor man’s trial” (168). They are not worried about their future, and the impression is that they “kin do” practically anything and still be happy (169).
In the second passage, there is sureness tainted with uncertainty. Arvay has “hope and determination” to accomplish her goal, but she is unsure about its outcome (316). She thinks that “she might not” regain her status with her husband (316). She is not positive that Jim will take her back. Because she is willing “to give it a poor man’s trial,” the extent of her resolve is shown (316). However, her lack of confidence shows in the next sentence, where she admits that there is a possibility for failure. Arvay has resolved not to lose Jim “because she never tried” (316). While the sentences are active in this passage, the past tense lends them an air of resignedness and doubt. The reader feels that Arvay does not know if she can have her goal but that she will at least now make a concerted effort to get it.
I chose to use these two passages because of the different uses of the same phrase. ‘A poor man’s trial’ appears in each passage, and in each passage it represents a chance about to be taken. However, in the first paragraph, the trial is seemingly not a trial at all but a foregone conclusion. They will try something new, and it might be difficult, but in the ends their needs will be met and they will over come any obstacles. In the second paragraph, the trial is one that has been growing throughout the novel. There is no sense of overconfidence; instead there is a pervading sense of temerity.