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“With their tongues cocked and loaded:”The power of language and dialect in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

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  1. Introduction
  2. The affront of words
  3. The use of metaphor and simile
  4. The Ebonics spoken in the US
  5. The exchanges between Janie and Joe
  6. Hurston's use of dialect
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works consulted

Zora Neale Hurston was a cultural anthropologist for her own culture. She spent much of her life recording the stories and saying of the people around her, both in Harlem and abroad in the American South. She poured her energy into representing people the way she saw them, or heard them, as the case may be. Her use of vernacular language is powerful and convincing in her fiction and non-fiction. It is one of the most distinguishing features of her work. Language was important to Zora as a writer, but also as an anthropologist. To Zora, the language and speech patterns of the characters in the story were just as important as the story itself.

[...] Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, includes the well written and convincing dialogue to enhance the power of voice in the book. The story that unfolds in Their Eyes is a story of dialogue. It is a story about stories, and the power that these stories have over people. The novel revolves around the porch of the General store and the talk that goes on there. When Janie finds the voice to tell her story at the end of the novel, the story is wrapped up the way it began; with the exchange of telling and listening. [...]


[...] Hurston's use of dialect in Their Eyes affirms the legitimacy of the Black vernacular, celebrates the creativity and beauty of the language, and functions to enhance the emotional voice of the characters. Also notable in the text is Zora's ability to weave standard English in with vernacular. In her book, Holloway follows the progression of the narrative voice in contrast with the voices of the characters and their dialect. She argues that there are three stages of narrative voice in the novel. [...]


[...] The New York Times September 1937. Book Review Digest Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Perennial Classics. New York: 1998. pp Tompkins, Lucy. The New York Times September 1937. Book Review Digest Hurston, Zora Neale. ?Characteristics of Negro Expression.? Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs & Other Writings. ed. Cheryl A. Wall. The Library of America. New York: 1995. pp Ibid. pp Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. pp Ibid. pp Ibid. pp Hurston, Zora Neale. ?Characteristics of Negro Expression.? pp Smitherman, Geneva. [...]

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