Language In Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Their Eyes Were Watching God, a Unique American Narrative
Their Eyes Were Watching God, a 1937 novel by influential Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston, examines the historical, cultural, and social foundations of African-American life by following the life of an African-American woman in the US South. In her examination of these foundations, Hurston builds validity and affirmation for black Southern culture by beautifully portraying the life of the Black Southern community in the Antebellum period, by adopting a distinctly African-American dialect and colloquial Black folk speech, and by using a narrative inside the novel to construct and narrativize the African-American identity.
Based on African-American folk traditions of the South,
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Hurston changes the language and dialect of the novel from the start of Janie’s narration of her life to Pheoby. Although, the text is initially difficult to understand, the change enables readers to almost be part of the story (Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston Critical Essays Use of Dialect in Their Eyes Were Watching God). This accurate and realistic depiction of the dialect affirms folklore and habits of the people in the Southern community. Janie says, “Ah know exactly what Ah got to tell yuh, but it’s hard to know where to start at. Ah ain’t never seen mah papa. And Ah didn’t know ‘im if Ah did. Mah mama neither” (Hurston 8). Hurston replaces the word “I” with “Ah”, while changing the word “you” to “yuh”. Also, a double negative is used in the sentence “Ah ain’t never seen mah papa,” for emphasis. The unique inclusion of colloquial African American language shows the pride and the importance of the Black culture, which was the basic theme of the Harlem Renaissance. The use of language seems to construct the identity of the Black people and bring the people to empowerment. The distinctive style, vocabulary, and grammar emphasizes the African Americans’ strive for individuality. In other words, the language…show more content…
Janie, like a lot of African-American women during that time including Nanny, Janie’s grandmother, shares her own experience and knowledge that she had gained throughout her life. This frame story is important since Janie’s storytelling simultaneously contributes to the identity of African Americans by keeping the tradition and spreading her knowledge and experience, and constructs her own identity and history as well (Benesch). Janie summarizes, “Ah know all dem sitters-and-talkers gointuh worry they guts into fiddle strings till dey find out whut we been talkin’ ‘bout. Dat’s all right, Pheoby, tell ‘em. Dey gointuh make ‘miration ‘cause mah love didn’t work lak they love, if dey ever had any. Then you must tell ‘em dat love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore” (Hurston 191). Janie spreads her experiences and the lessons that we learned to Pheoby, who in turn will probably tell the other porch-sitters, whom are desperate to know about Janie’s story. This
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