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Discussion--Week 6

Due by class time on Monday, 10/13. Did what you learned about the real Zora Neale Hurston and the town of Eatonville in Walker's piece change the way you looked at Hurston's essay? How do you think growing up in an insular Black community shaped Hurston's sense of identity?


I read Hurston's piece first, and I got the impression that she was such a strong, confident person who knew exactly who she was, and was very proud of that. She also seemed witty, funny, and a very interesting person to get to know. She described Eatonville as a prominently black town, which is also how it is described in Walker's piece. I think growing up in a town like this is what gave her the confidence in her identity and made her proud of her race, even when she left Eatonville. Walker's essay, for me, reenforced what I gathered from Zora's character, as the many people Walker encountered remembered her as an intelligent, talkative, strong woman. However, from reading Hurston's essay you get no indication of the rather severe state of poverty she endured for a good part of her life, and you also don't know the weak relationship she had with her family, so that surprised me a little that those factors didn't really come through in her writing, but she writes so strongly and confidently, that you know she is completely content and proud of who she is.

Walker’s piece did not really change how I felt about Hurston’s essay. The town of Eatonville was the same in both essays; small and black. Multiple characters assured Walker that everyone in the town had loved Zora and donated towards her burial; Zora said in her essay that the people of Eatonville considered her “their Zora.? Walker learned some things about Hurston’s later life, but none of the stories changed how I felt about Hurston’s essay.
Growing up in a predominately black community gave Hurston a unique perspective on racial identity. As a child, she didn’t have to deal with the prejudice that many Southern blacks were faced with, so she was able to treat prejudice dismissively. It is the prejudiced who are at a disadvantage in Hurston’s mind, because they will never be able to enjoy her company. She did not dwell on the injustices that her enslaved ancestors had to deal with; she would not allow the past to hold her back from living her life. Although there are some situations that made her feel connected to her race, such as listening to the jazz orchestra, generally Hurston treated race as superficial. She was black in the same way that she was American; her outside identity should not dictate her inside identity.

After reading Walker's piece, my opinion did not change about Zora but it did explain to me why she was so confident and even proactive in her beliefs. The fact that she was praised by her community definitely helped her have a different perspective on race. Because she was free to do whatever in her secluded community, there is leeway to for her to see things that blacks in the South could not see. From the description of Eatonville, I could easily identify with Zora's opinion on desegregation of schools. In this way, Walker's piece offers very interesting perspective on these new problems after slavery and does a good job of providing a more serious backstory to Hurston's piece.

I actually thought reading Walker's piece after Hurston's made me identify with a more human element in Zora. When I read Hurston's essay, I felt that she was completely confident and self-assured. She seemed like a character, perfectly plotted without flaw or weakness. But I think reading Walker's essay and seeing where Zora grew into this person from a semi-objective source made me see that human side. I began to see places in Zora's essay where some very real transformations and struggles may have taken place. I liked seeing how such a strong woman was not going to let a small detail such as death get in her way of making her opinions still heard. I began to understand from Walker's essay how these strong opinions from Zora formed and why she had to grow into who she did.

In "How it Feels to be Colored Me", I was under the impression that Zora Neale Hurston was a strong woman who could not be stopped. A woman who loved her neighbors and embraced her culture to the fullest extent. Zora was an ideal. By reading "Looking for Zora," I received clarification on Zora's real situation. She placed a great emphasis on her education and had to struggle through poverty and a community that had no desire to gain worldly knowledge to gain her schooling. This helped shape her identity because even though Zora loved Eatonville, she was frustrated by it at the same time. It is interesting to find out that she had poor ties with her family and remained single her whole life because, in her essay, I had assumed she placed great emphasis on personal relationships. Although Hurston did embrace her community through her writing, she also shunned it by leaving it so often and only being there to gain "field experience". Walker's essay made Zora less of a fictional character and more of a person for me.

After reading Walker's piece, my same feelings were still intact about Hurston's piece. Walker simply added another huge and important layer into my understanding of the realistic context from which Hurston produced her writing. Walker's piece seems to crack open the poetic and picturesque elements of Hurston's writing and reveals the true environment and circumstances that obviously play heavily into Hurston's disposition as a black youngster in Eatonville. Thanks to Walker's efforts to grant us a glimpse into Hurston's role in this insular black community, it becomes apparent why Hurston exhibits such a unique attitude toward ethnic diversity. Her lack of disdain for the turbulent past of slavery is perhaps a commodity not often encountered outside of a place like Eatonville.

My feelings about Zora didn't change much after reading Walker's essay. It made her seem more realistic in a sense that there was more detail about her relationship with her family, she had a dog, and how she died. I would of thought before reading Walker's piece that Zora would have been for integration by the way that she tells us how she's proud of being colored and isn't ashamed of it. Walker's essay tells us however, that Zora was against integration which confused me somewhat. Zora did move away from Eatonville for a while which made it seem as though she did not want to live in a town of just blacks. But, I suppose that is what she was used to.

Reading Walker’s visit to Eatonville didn’t change what I thought about How It Feels to Be Colored Me, but gave me a better background and understanding of Zora’s message. I still feel that Zora has a refreshingly unique view on her identity, a strong sense of self, and would be a very interesting person to meet. The memories collected by Walker from those who knew Zora well were insightful and gave her even more dimensions.
I think that an African American stepping out of Eatonville and into the world could either be frustrating, causing someone to shun or hide their identity, or embrace it, and let it shine for the world to see, like Zora did. My favorite part of How It Feels to Be Colored Me is when she gives insight on her encounters with white people. It demonstrates how her confidence in identity began as a child by welcoming strangers passing through the town.

I think that Zora's description of Eatonville as a "prominentl" black town was a misrepresentation if we are to assume that Walker's calling it an "entirely" black town is the truth. Growing up in an "entirely" black town definitely would've affected how Hurston felt about being colored because everybody would've been the same. I understand why, as Walker says, Hurston could oppose integration, but I don't really understand why anybody would. I don't think that they could possibly be so self-centered that they wouldn't understand that segregation is causing African-Americans in other places to recieve an under-par education.

Other than that, I don't think that Walker's Essay changed my view of Hurston. I don't understand why the peoples perception of Hurston was so different. Why didn't everybody know that she was well-liked, that she liked to eat, or that she didn't receive a "Pauper's funeral"?

Walker's essay showed a different perspective on Zora. Hurston's essay showed a Zora that was confident, proud and someone that knew what she wanted. Walker's essay showed a different perspective on Zora. This essay showed much of the same strong black woman with a strong sense of self, but I was suprised to find that she lived in poverty for much of her life and I was shocked to find she was overweight. Eatonville had made Zora the self-assured woman both Walker and Hurston's essays reveal. Race relations were not an issue in Eatonville because it was an entirely black town. Her identity didn't come from being black; she was who she was. However, this is not to say she wasn't proud of being black, she just didn't let herself be identified by only that fact.

After reading Hurston's essay, she was a bold and confident woman, who was quite the character. She knew who she was and what she stood for in a world outside of her hometown, Eatonville. I think Eatonville is what formed her to be who she is and helped her find her identity. It's obvious in Walker's essay as Charlotte and she approach these various people, that they are all just as proud and bold as Zora was. Surely she had some uncomfortable times which she did discuss in her essay when she describes being "thrown" against the wall. However, through her essay and then from the support of Walker's essay, I realized my opinion was not changed of Zora, but only reinforced. The people who talked to Walker supported the things Zora had written in her own essay.

I responded to the revelations about Zora in Walker's piece in a manner similar to that of Walker. Obviously I don't have as close of emotional ties to Zora as Walker does but upon learning that she Zora was, in effect, exiled for her work, and buried in an unmarked grave, unrecognized for her contributions to society, I too felt (I'm sure a lesser version of) her sadness and anger. I didn't reject Zora's stories of indifference in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me", but instead attributed the tales of discrimination to a larger force, one both Black and White.