The Use of Southern Language and Dialect in Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Their eyes were Watching God
Use of language and dialect
 
            Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabma, but primarily grew up in Eatonville, Florida. Eatonville was the first all black town in the United States and is featured heavily in the novel. This may in fact be because Hurston considered Eatonville to be her true home and claimed a few times to be her birthplace. This is because, in 1901, according to A Crticial Companion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to her Life and Work by Sharon L. Jones, school teachers from the north visited Eatonville and gave Hurston "a number of books that opened her mind to literature" this may be why she sometimes describes her "birth" as taking place that year [Sharon L. Jones pp 3-4]

 A lot of the content in Their Eyes is taken from Zora's own life. Hurston's familiarity of southern life allows her to accurately depict the unique dialect that makes Their Eyes Were Watching God so special. Throughout the novel, she uses an interesting narrative structure. Almost as if she split the presentation of the novel right down the middle, between high literary narrations using proper, refined speech and the southern drawl, the improper grammar and misspellings.  Initial and final consonants are frequently dropped. "You" becomes "yuh," occasionally "y'all," a plural. "I" is "Ah", etcetera. Double negatives are frequent, such as "Nobody don't know". The past tense gets mangled too. Take, for example, "knew”, which becomes, "knowed."

            This unique presentation is integral to what makes Their Eyes Were Watching God a literary classic. These characters speak as do few others in American literature, and their distinctive grammar, vocabulary, and tone is what makes each character an individual. In other words, language is part of the identity and the novel pays a lot of attention to the use of language and its importance in conveying the individuality of each of the characters, as well as creating...
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