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. [...]
[...] At the time that both Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were writing, many of their peers believed that only the best characteristics of the race should be portrayed in order to gain respect (from white people, generally.) The works of both writers were often criticized for their use of dialects, specifically. Richard Wright gave a harsh review of Their Eyes, accusing Hurston of “perpetuating the minstrel tradition.” However, Zora acknowledged that there was a kind of a science to African American dialects. [...]
[...] This is true, but it is equally true that he has made over a great part of the tongue to his liking and has had his revision accepted by the ruling class. In this article, Hurston discusses the main contributions of African Americans to the English language, use of metaphor and simile; the use of the double descriptive, the use of verbal nouns.” Each of the three elements that Zora mentions appear through out Their Eyes Were Watching God. The use of metaphor and simile in the novel is extensive. [...]
[...] Their Eyes Were Watching God. Perennial Classics. New York: 1998. -Hurston, Zora Neale. “Characteristics of Negro Expression.” Hurston: Folklore, Memoirs & Other Writings. ed. Cheryl A. Wall. The Library of America. New York: 1995. -Jones, Gayl. “Breaking Out of the Conventions of Dialect.” Sweat: Zora Neale Hurston. ed. Cheryl A. Wall. Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, New Jersey: 1997 -Kaplan, Carla. Erotics of Talk: That Oldest Human Longing.” Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Casebook. ed. Cheryl A. Wall. [...]
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