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Improvise, Adapt and Overcome: Zora Hurston and her Battle with Social Norms

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With the birth of civilization humanity unleashed a great evil unto the world. Oppression. Something that has managed to survive to this very day. Hurston radical persona was forged by the standards and prejudgment that society compels the mass to abide by. Hurston argues despite what society has labeled her based on the color of her skin she has her own identity; she conveys this message in an unconventional way by using figurative language and as a result playing with the definition of an essay.

The importance of the picture that Hurston paints from the very beginning is to show that society has marked her for life based on the color of her skin. She goes as far as stating “to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame.” (2) Hurston tries to show the unique situation that society has puts on her from a very young age. She is judged as a member of a group rather than an individual. Anything that she does is being credited to her and the group that she is labeled as never just herself.

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The purpose of this was to make sure the reader understands how she felt so they can understand her argument. She wants to make sure that the reader in a way relate or at the very least be able to follow how her mind is working.

Hurston rejects the idea of being judged based on the actions of the group that society put her in rather she identifies as her own group. Hurston wants the reader to understand this and tries to make sure that the reader understands how she feels when she states:

I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of Eatonville before the Hegira. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background… Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and over swept, but through it all, I remain myself. (2)

Hurston feels that she doesn’t belong with the group that society associates her with in fact she doesn’t associated with a color group. The only time she feels part of the group is when surrounded by white people, yet she feels that she is still her own person even in this extreme. Hurston does not feel a connection with any group in fact she connects closer to her childhood back before being labeled when she lived life foe fun to its fullest. Wants us to understand that she doesn’t connect with any group based on color.

Hurston’s tone and word choice help her deliver her message to the reader in gives us an insight in the liners of her mind. She has a positive tone when she talks about the hardships that she went through as a child. We see this hope that she has even when facing the dark evils that her history has when she states:
Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. … Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. It is thrilling to think–to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with the spectators not knowing whether to laugh or to weep. (2)

Hurston talks about how people try to connect her with her heritage and treat her differently because of it, but she feels that it should not define who she is as a person. Hurston word chose through this quote were positive when she was taking about negative things that most want to make her feel sorry for herself. She uses words such as glory, opportunity, thrilling and praise. Hurston wants the reader to understand that she does not feel a connection with the people who she is grouped with because all they do is whine about the situation that they are in. We start to she the picture of what Hurston’s point of view on life looks like.

Hurston purpose of including the story about at the jazz club with her friend was to show her disconnection with society. She tries to show how they both interrupted the music differently she went on a trip back to her homeland filled with emotion and her friend simply felt that the music was “good”. Hurston seems to not be part of the black community nor the white community but rather her own community. Further adding to the fact that she feels that she makes up her own community.

Hurston through the essay was playing with the idea that an essay is an experiment very much like what D’Agata visons an essay to be. She used fugitive language a lot to deliver her message. First example of this was when she states: “… but it was a gallery seat for me. My favorite place was atop the gatepost. Proscenium box for a born first-nighter.” (1) She attempts to make the reader visualize her point that she was always center of attention but didn’t know why giving us an insight into the mind of when she was a child. A second example of this was when she wrote “I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow … could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly.” (3) She used this analogy to tell the reader that she believes that we are not as different as we make it out to be. Hurston used fugitive language to make it easier for the reader to follow what Is going on in her mind.

Hurston’s writing supports D’Agata’s idea that an essay is an experiment. But makes us start to question. What is not an essay? It makes us rethink how we define an essay. Is it just a form of communication that helps us get an idea from point a to point b or is it more than that? This essay supports the idea that its more than a form of communication. Its human nature to want to include our feelings and creativity to anything we do so why is the essay an exemption well it isn’t.


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