A. Dillard, Professor
ENG – 550 – Q5158
3 Jul. 2015
Writings of Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston wrote her stories from an “insider’s” perspective. Her effective use of black dialect in her writings of “Sweat,” “The Gilded Six-Bits,” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” often created a superficial realism which, by verging on racial stereotyping, overlooks the experiences and motivations of her characters (Cornish). The writings of the author not only included the linguistic structure of dialect----i.e, grammar (specifically morphology and syntax) and vocabulary (David Crystal), but the English phonology of words (Ah’m, ain’t, dat, “Ah done tole you…”). Writing a thesis on the writings of author Zora Neale Hurston’s use of linguistic elements in relationship to her style of writing required the use of my course textbook, “How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction,” written by Anne Curzan and Michael Adams. In Chapter 12 of the textbook a discussion of American Dialects stated, “In the twenty-first century, American speakers may poke at the drawl of Southerners” (Curzan and Adams 377); a culture and dialect frequently written about by Hurston. Hurston wrote masterfully within the folk idiom that she was heavily influenced by (Cornish). Writing the dialect of an uneducated black people not only was appropriate to their rural existences and experiences, but also, provided insight into her choices which mattered in the final result of her writings.
Sandles 2 When a black woman author writes stories about the experiences of other black women in the early twentieth century is the language used to tell those stories in line with the linguistic elements required to make the writing style of the author believable to readers? Zora Neale Hurston’s novels Sweat, The Gilded Six-Bits, and Their Eyes Were Watching God show the mistreatment of black women by their male husbands and lovers, in the white dominated society. The Southern African-American English dialects used in each story were the dialects Hurston grew-up learning and understanding. Hurston’s writing style of Sweat relied on the use of language for a distinct purpose and effect; “Sykes, what you throw dat whip on me like dat? You know it would skeer me—looks just like a snake, an you knows how skeered Ah is of snakes.” The diction and dialect of the uneducated black character speaking those words becomes mentally visible to the reader. Hurston's writing of Their Eyes Were Watching God relies on the following linguistic techniques (http://www.readwritethink.org): Black English, including rhythm and word choice (such as Janie's conversation with Nanny in Chapter 2). Oral features, or heard speech (such as the discussion of Matt Bonner's yellow mule on the store's porch in Chapter 6). Colorful figurative language, in particular metaphors and imagery (such as the pear tree and blossoms in Chapter 2). Personification (such as the description of the storm in Chapter 18). Biblical images and references (such as "old as Methusalem" in Chapter 7 or the "Virgin Mary image" comparison in Chapter 6) The central theme of each novel is the mistreatment of uneducated black women, and how those women overcame that mistreatment to survive. The vernacular of the characters supported the plot and setting for each story written. In each of the stories the author used descriptive
Sandles 3 language to create sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations to show gender violence....
Cited: Cornish, Sam. “Hurston’s Tales Illuminate Rural Black Culture.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 31 may 1985. Web. 13 Jul. 2015.
Curzan, Anne, and Michael Adams. How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction.
New York: Pearson/Longman, 2006. Print.
“dialect.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 14 Jul. 2015.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Urbana: U of Illinois Press, 1978. Web. 24 Jul. 2015.
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