Native Son By Zora Neale Hurston

1664 Words7 Pages
In the United States in the 1920’s and 1930’s, African Americans had developed a sense of victimhood. They felt the need to assimilate to white cultural norms in order to earn the respect of white people, and achieve success. This notion was countered by the black artists, writers and thinkers who emerged as part of the Harlem Renaissance in New York, and who embraced their identities in order to cultivate a rich African American culture. One such visionary was the writer and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston’s work breathed life into the Harlem Renaissance. Her writing gave a completely new face to black culture and African Americans during the early 20th century, and her personal presence left a strong impression upon many of the…show more content…
By the 1940’s, Richard Wright’s “ Native Son”, had changed the black literary world. The use of black folklore became passe, and so did Hurston. In a world where it was the duty of the black writer to make political commentary and be socially realistic in the portrayal of their characters, Hurston’s idealization of black life under less-than-ideal socioeconomic and political circumstances was rejected and criticized. She faded into insignificance, and ended up working as a maid in 1950 (Wall). Her work was only brought back into the mainstream by writer, Alice Walker in the late 1970’s. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) is now considered to be the first black, feminist novel. Still widely read today, the book brings to life an image of a powerful, self-sufficient black woman, uninhibited by social disadvantage (Porter, 80). In the framework of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston is remembered as a tremendous force, contributing much to the life and energy of the period. As her close friend Langston Hughes put it “ Only to reach a wider audience, need she ever write books-because she is a perfect book of entertainment in herself. She could make you laugh one minute and cry the…show more content…
A reverence for the black way of life instilled in her through her upbringing in Florida propelled Hurston towards an illustrious, if tumultuous career, and ultimately, a shining legacy in America. Zora Neale Hurston’s work, her will to succeed, and her confidence in her identity endure and inspire today. Her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is still widely read and studied in classrooms across the United States. Her writing continues to empower people of color, and to challenge the limitations imposed by the generalization of the black experience in literature and media. Hurston’s shining body of work, and her memorable presence left definite marks on the United States, and contributed to the defining movement, The Harlem Renaissance, the legacy of which is still felt in the present
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