Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pronoun Usage in Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston is a very interesting author. She seems to fall into and out of lyrical language throughout her novel. There are moments where she needs to write beautifully, and then there are moments where she pulls back and just presents the action at hand. Something that I have noticed while reading, is that during these moments of beautiful, lyrical language Hurston plays with nouns and pronouns. The emphasis is mine in the following quotes.

"The people all saw her come because it was sundown. The sun was gone, but he had left his footprints in the sky. It was the time for sitting on porches beside the road. It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgement."

This first quote come right at the beginning of the novel and Hurston describes these people, these "sitters" as less than human. She doesn't use words with positive connotations--"mules," "brutes," "sitters," "conveniences," even "people." There is no familiarity, nor is there any love. As these "skins" are passing judgment on Janie, Hurston wants us to be passing judgement on them as well.

This next quote is right at the end of the novel...

"The day of the gun, and the bloody body, and the courthouse came and commenced to sing a sobbing sigh out of every corner in the room; out of each and every chair and thing. Commenced to sing, commenced to sob and sigh, singing and sobbing. Then Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top of the pine trees. Tea Cake, with the sun for a shawl. Of course he wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see."

The first line is so interesting to me because there are three distinct days in the list and they are coming to life in these lines and singing and sobbing and sighing. The events of Janie's life are so powerful to her that she visualizes them before her and then wraps herself in these experiences. Very symbolic.

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