What does Zora Neal Hurston identify as the “Characteristics of Negro Expression? ”
In 1933. Zora Neil Hurston wrote “Characteristics of Negro Expression” to border the Negro or Afro-american as she saw him. She saw the consequences of the Great Migration as terrifying and spasmodic. unbearably inhumane and lay waste toing to those left buttocks. For Hurston. rural black people were being forgotten ; vanishing amidst the judicious enthusiasm of the urban New Negro Movement. In Hurston’s essay she describes the different constructs of what it meant to be a black American in the South.
She sees the new Negro as embracing theses elements: being dramatic. holding the will to decorate. being angular. asymmetrical. dancing. folkloric. holding originality. apery. non-reserve. holding a curious idiom. and hanging out at the congee or pleasance house. These are merely a few of the compositional elements used to depict the disregarded Negro in the South. By reviewing Hurston’s essay. reviews will hold a proper apprehension of these societal features and will hold a better apprehension of the Afro-american in relation to his individuality.
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Hurston was portion of the “Talented Tenth. ” an elect group of good educated Afro-american professionals who argued that the mission of set uping black individuality and therefore deriving societal credence and economic and political stableness would be vitally strengthened through humanistic disciplines and letters. Hurston’s work and unfavorable judgment have helped to determine the mode in which black American creative persons and faculty members view themselves. Besides how they emphasize humanness inherent in black people through citing the diverseness of voices and endowments in black America in the South. every bit good as their indispensable connexion through “legacy” to the African continent.
Hurston begins her essay with the first feature of the southern Negro look “Drama. ” in which she describes about every stage of Afro-american being as being “highly dramatized” ( Hurston 296 ) . She farther provinces that “No count how joyful or how sad the instance there is sufficient poise for drama” ( Caponi 294 ) . To this terminal. Hurston realizes that African-Americans and their day-to-day experiences are in clip and history. dramatic corporate repeats that are repeated and multiplied many times in many art signifiers. but why? . As African-Americans live. most of course leave a grade on most things they come in contact with. For illustration. Picasso was dramatically influenced by African people and their art on his trip to Africa. His trip was the precursor to the formation of Cubism. Consequently this clearly demonstrates that the African and his presence. normally dramatic. is a phenomenon of their being in the existence. in which other want to papers.
Therefore. it is up to the creative person to happen the footings and images that will merely clear up those experiences and cognition for the critic who does non or could non understand what is or was go oning to African-Americans. and to future critics who will necessitate to be warned and directed in footings from inside the degree we call Africanisms.
Another phenomenon and dramatic characteristic look of African-Americans in the South is “Angularity. ” Hurston provinces. “Everything he touches becomes angular. ” For illustration. his furniture is set at an angle. images are hung at angles. and even his position in dance is invariably at different angles. In about every look of life. most African-Americans garbage to be traditional. Brenda Gottchild posits that this is portion of African aesthetics when African Americans “refuse to be traditional. ” ( Gottchild 13 ) In the subdivision on “Will to Adorn. ” Hurston sees the Afro-american as reinventing the English linguistic communication to accommodate himself and holding his alteration accepted by the “southern opinion category white adult male. ”
Hurston views the greatest of this alteration as the usage of metaphors and similes ( that’s a rope ) . the dual descriptive ( high-tall ) . verbal nouns ( funeralize ) and nouns from verbs ( she won’t take listen ) . Hurston argues that whatever African-Americans do in misdemeanor to the normality of life he beautifies. Writer and dance partisan commented in Brenda Gottchild’s book “African-Americans blend the impossible and create beauty” ( Gottchild 14 ) . “This beautification. this revisioning is so accepted by white Americans and assimilated into their vernacular” ( Hurston 301 ) .
The impact of “Asymmetry. ” “Dancing” and “Folklore” are discussed as the following three features of Negro look. In “Asymmetry” Hurston looks into African art and remarks that the sculpture and carvings of the Afro-american creative person are full of beauty and at the same clip deficiency symmetricalness. Additionally. she sees this characteristic encompassing literature. poesy and dance.
Hurston provinces “It is the deficiency of symmetricalness which makes Negro dancing so hard for white terpsichoreans to learn” ( 297 ) . Gottchild concurs with Hurston saying “Movement may emanate from any portion of the organic structure. and two or more centres may run at the same time. ” For illustration. Afro-american dance may look hard at times but most airss give the feeling that the terpsichorean will make much more. In most art forms the Afro-american is non seeking to make all that is imaginable. he is simply giving a realistic suggestion of what is possible.
Nothing shows what is possible more than African-Americans willingness to accommodate folklore to accommodate his ain usage. While most people view folklore as a thing of the yesteryear. Hurston examines folklore as something “still in the making” and negotiations about the cultural functions of God. the Devil. John Henry and Jack. the greatest civilization hero of the South. In the model of her narrative Jack has the ability to outwit the Devil when it seems that “God is perfectly no lucifer for him” ( Hurston 299 ) . Jack’s ability to overreach the Devil places him in the company of other outstanding civilization icons. To this terminal. Hurston is able to demo that African folklore is non plants of imitation but invention. By acknowledging the features of Negro look. Hurston identifies in her essay an apprehension that if black creative person are to hold anything in their ain image and harmonizing to their ain positions. African-Americans will hold to hold a say in which dramas. dances. and folklore are in those images.
The concluding features that Hurston focuses on are: “Originality. ” “Imitation. ” “Absence of the Concept of Privacy” and “The Jook. ” Harmonizing to Hurston the African-American is the most copied person on the face of the planet yet it is still said that he lacks originality. His art. music. dramas and manner are topics of scrutiny and commodification. Hurston argues. “While he lives and moves in the thick of white civilisation. everything he touches is reinterpreted for his ain use” ( Hurston 310 ) . In footings of “Imitation” the African-American is non an impersonator but a copier. If he chooses to copy. it is because he wishes to and non because he wished to be like the one imitated. Historically. there is no “Concept of Privacy” in the African small town. So it is believed that African-Americans kept nil secret. Therefore he keeps nil in modesty and every facet of his life is shared with his communal and biological household.
Hurston’s essay is of import because while bordering the architecture of the disregarded African-Americans in the South. she retells the narration of the African work forces and adult females which sought to be original in every signifier of art. She provides her readers with a true representation of the societal features of the Afro-american civilization in the South. Hurston straight puts them in the unfastened for all to review. Hurston’s essay gives the reader a clear image of African-Americans life in the South during the Harlem Renaissance. every bit good as. their disregarded individuality and connects their traits neatly to many African art genres we see today.
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