The Literal and Interpreted Meaning of "Spunk"

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The Literal and Interpreted Meaning of “Spunk”

The Literal and Interpreted Meaning of “Spunk”
The word “spunk” is literally defined as a noun used to describe someone who has “informal courage or spirit” (****). The story “Spunk” by Zora Neale Hurston is about a disagreement between two men over a woman. The woman is married to a man named Joe Kanty and is adulterating with the town bully, Spunk. Ironically, Spunk’s attitude reflects the definition of the literal word. He is feared by everyone and fears no one, including Joe Kanty. Joe is completely the opposite and is a shy, weak man who mostly keeps to himself. Despite this stereotype, Joe later gains the courage to confront Spunk and attempt to kill him in an effort to get his wife back. As luck would have it, Joe fails in his attempt and Spunk ends up killing him. As the story progresses, Joe comes back to haunt Spunk, later resulting in his death.

The character Spunk can be described using the literal definition of his actual name. As mentioned previously, the term “spunk” is used to describe a person with informal courage and spirit. Spunk’s attitude was not a secret and was well known and noticed in his community. This is apparent during a discussion between a few of the locals in the beginning of the story when they see Spunk from a distance. It is said that “He (Spunk) rides that log down the saw-mill jus’ like he struts ‘round wid another man’s wife---jus’ don’t give a kitty” (Hurston 283). This is important to the story because it portrays the general fear that the community has for spunk. It also gives a good picture of Spunk’s personality and the way he carries himself. Incidents in which Spunk lives up to the stereotype given to him by the people occur throughout the story. For example, at the very beginning of the story the locals notice Spunk walking through town with a woman clinging lovingly to his arm, the woman being Joe Kanty’s wife (282). This portrays his attitude perfectly because...
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