A Didactic Dialect Essay

1025 words - 5 pages

Zora Neale Hurston's use of southern dialect has often been criticized for stereotyping the entire black population of the south. Many critics state that Hurston's makes the black population out to be uneducated when many were quite the opposite. Hurston's dialect was simply to make the novel much more realistic by respectfully showing the culture of the southern blacks. Although her language may have seen offensive, it is essential in defending against racism.
The dialect in Their Eyes Were Watching God was described by Hurston on page 10 as "soft, easy phrases." Many of the vowel sounds are softened in each word. For example, "I" becomes "ah" and "th" turns into "f." Also, ...view middle of the document...

Hurston used dialect to respectfully separate the whites from the blacks and even the Indians. For example, the Indians were considered to "dumb" and "always were" (155). The whites thought this because of their unsophisticated English and lack of education. For this reason, once a hurricane approaches, nobody flees even though they were warned by the Indians. The Indians took shelter and remained safe while the whites' homes were destroyed. While some critics might suggest that Hurston was insulting the Indians through this scene and their dialect, she was actually speaking out against racial barriers. The author also gives an unsophisticated dialect to the blacks in the novel. Even they refer to the whites as "de ruler of everything" (14). Hurston, being of African American descent herself, would obviously not actually believe her race to be inferior to whites. Following her same purpose, Hurston uses dialect to illustrate how stereotyped certain races are just based on their skin color.
Hurston proved this dialect was appropriate and defended her use when she included the juxtaposition of the speech to actions. For example, Joe Starks, spoken and educated just like any other black of the time period, was able to create a city boom. Despite his speech, he became very wealthy and a city planner superior to even most whites. Hurston's use of dialect demonstrated that race does not have to affect one's future.
However, Hurston provided the ultimate paradox when she wrote the novel. Hurston herself grew up in a similar situation as she wrote in her book; she also likely spoke in the same dialect in which she wrote. Yet, Hurston was still able to become educated and a published author. Hurston herself was born in a poor situation similar to her characters, yet she was still able to overcome. She was attempting to state that one's education and speaking ability does not restrict his future. This use of dialect in creating the paradox further strengthened her purpose that race does not define the individual that one may become.
Hurston was also introducing a new paradox....

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