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Zora Neale Hurston; A figures of the Harlem Renaissance

Speaking to Phoeby, she calls them the collective 'Mouth-Almighty' (Hurston 1978, 16). The symbolic power of naming is further reinforced by Phoeby, who tells Janie that 'so long as they get a name to gnaw on they don't care whose it is and what about, æspecially if they can make it sound like evil' (Hurston 1978, 17). The process of naming dilutes identity is Hurston's point. Baker (1987) underscores the significant of naming and reports that Janie is 'known to her childhood cohorts as æalphabet' because she has been given so many ædifferent names'' (37). She has been marginalized within American culture because she does not have a single, definitive name that embodies within her all the possibility of naming. The only method Janie has of shaping a positive and expressive identity is to divide herself into distinct public and private personas, a further dilution of identity.

Hurston (1978) alludes to this split persona when she ultimately identifies Janie as follows: 'She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them' (68). It is Janie's realization that her grandmother's best intentions have contributed to her divided self. Acquiring her own name necessitates the rejection of protection and security which Nanny Logan and Jody all sought to provide Janie. Showing the struggles of all African-American women seeking an authentic place for expression of autonomy and independence, Janie's choice of a name that truly reflects her own view of self comes with a price.

In sum, the relationship between Janie and Tea Cake allows her to form a new relationship to language in which she has power over it and others instead of the reverse scenario. She learns from Tea Cake's use of language that it can be used in a positive and creative rather than a limiting and


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Zora Neale Hurston; A figures of the Harlem Renaissance. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:48, September 21, 2017, from
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