The Search For Nora Zeale Hurston

1320 words - 6 pages

Zora Neale Hurston grew up in poverty, lived her life in infamy, and died in obscurity. Her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God dropped off the face of the Earth because of negative and damaging criticism from Richard Wright and Alain Locke, and the fact that she was a black woman in a discriminating culture. It then resurfaced 30 years later due to fans and the movements of the civil rights, woman’s rights, and Black Arts.
Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is greatly praised by most critics today but was held in a different light when first published. Popular black authors during Hurston’s era held the most disdain for Hurston’s novel. Famous writer Richard ...view middle of the document...

Their Eyes Were Watching God was not simply criticized for its plot but for the themes and ideas that many blacks did not want to address. Take the two characters Janie and Mrs. Turner who are classified as light skinned blacks and just so happen to be segregated from the rest of the black community. Mrs. Turner believes herself to be better than her fellow race. Even having extreme racist ideas towards other blacks, and purposely segregates herself. Janie is segregated due to circumstance such as her second husband forbidding her from socializing with her peers.
Hurston dared to write a novel containing a rift in the black community. This was rarely done by contemporary black authors, and could be considered by some as taboo. This scared readers away from the book and caused contemporary writers to look upon the book with disdain for Hurston did not write about the blacks as one unified group. Hurston’s other bold ideas rarely used by other black authors was the black vernacular. The vernacular was a type of speech used by blacks in Southern and urban areas (Wheeler, Black Vernacular). It is still today commonly mistaken as poor English but is a form of culture and similar to an accent. Hurston used the vernacular to show the rich and deepness of the black culture. On the other hand, most authors thought it was foolish and made the blacks sound uneducated. They feared this would cause whites to look down on their race even more.
Zora Neale Hurston was a black during the time of discrimination and segregation of non-whites. Being a black woman Hurston’s book was not given the right amount of attention and appreciation her book deserved as a man or white author would receive. Jim Crow laws were still in effect, absurd laws separating the whites and blacks, and the KKK was still operating. Racist laws and racist groups tend to make the works of blacks under appreciated and segregated from the white majority. Hurston was also a woman. In the 1930’s, women only received the right to vote less then 20 years earlier (The Fight for). The 1930’s women were still paid less then men and were still treated as inferior to men. Hurston took this a step further by writing her book to empower black women and unsurprisingly most male authors did not enjoy the novel. Hurston’s novel had all the ingredients to be disregarded at the time because it was about an independent female and written by a black woman.
In the 1970’s Their Eyes Were Watching God made a comeback. This was because of the movements sweeping the nation. The civil rights movement was all about giving blacks equal rights, to be treated like whites. Blacks were showing America that they should be treated equally from Rosa Parks to freedom marches to desegregating schools (The Civil Rights Movement). The women’s right movement soon followed with...

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