Social Oppression In Hurston's Sawley

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Hurston 's intention in this novel is to bring out Arvay 's urge for self-identity and motherhood. At the beginning of the novel, Arvay desires to devote her life to religion but it is not taken seriously by many of the young men in Sawley. However, they continue to pursue her, despite her “fits and spasms” like the ones which her mother had in her youth: “No one thought too much about the seizures. Fits were things that happened to some young girls, but they grew out of them sooner or later. It was usually taken as a sign of a girl being “high-strung”. Marriage would straighten her out” (SS 6). These “fits and spasms” usually occur when a young man insists on seeing Arvay home after church: “After the long walk in almost complete silence on Arvay 's part, the venture invariably ended in a …show more content…

Thus, a circular process takes place. A social ethos of oppression requires survival tactics on the part of the oppressed that are defined by those in power as dysfunctional. This has the effect of confirming the rationales for oppression in the first place. What might help to break the cycle is a shift in focus from individual behavior to social context that includes “class exploitation, racial stratification and patriarchy”(Lerman 148). Jim is not so easily put off, however, and “cures” Arvay 's fits by putting a drop of turpentine in her eye: “Then a hurricane struck the over-crowded parlor. Arvay gave a yell from the very bottom of her lungs and catapulted her body from the sofa” (SS 32). While Arvay rushes off to wash out her eye, “Jim and Brock Henson stood face to face and looked each dead in the eye for a moment. We 'll give what aid we can in washing out her pretty eye”. With a dry grin smothering in his face, Jim led the way to the back porch” (SS 32-33). As Arvay washes her eye with water, her father comments, “Jim, you sure done worked a miracle,”to which Jim responds, “ A woman knows who her master is and she answers to his

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