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Identity in Zora Neale Hurston’s How It Feels to Be Colored Me

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Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” can be interpreted as a reverse response of W. E. B. DuBois’ concept of “double consciousness” that he describes in “The Souls of Black Folk.” Hurston shows that not all African Americans experience a sense of double consciousness and that some are instilled with the self confidence required to embrace one’s “blackness.” First, it may be helpful to define consciousness before attempting to explain the notion of double consciousness. Consciousness is defined as the state of being mentally aware of something: oneself, in this essay. Therefore, we can now define double consciousness as the state of an individual being mentally aware of “two selves”: one as you see yourself and the second as you see yourself through the eyes of others. Dubois describes it as “the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”1 So, not only does double consciousness mean seeing oneself in two lights, but it is necessary to understand that these two views are also conflicting. We will be examining a few aspects of double consciousness as discussed by DuBois and then as a response by Hurston. The first deals with trying to define oneself within a “white America” filled with discrimination against blacks. DuBois expresses confusion about this black identity during his era. He knows that essentially he is the same on the inside as a white person as far as needs and desires in life. This can be seen from his statement, “I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil,” (DuBois 896) meaning that he is discriminated agai... ... middle of paper ... ...DuBois describes only the negative effects of racism and highlights the struggles and hardships that an African Americans comes up against. Hurston goes so far as to show the point of view from the side of the white person, of how a white person can feel as out of place in a large group of blacks as a black person in as a group of whites. These example show that though similar in some respects, Hurston’s reading of being colored in America shows an opposite view of DuBois’ concept of double consciousness. Word Count: 1301 References: 1. Dubois, W. E. B. ""The Soul of Black Folk"." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume C. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2007. 894-910. 2. Hurston, Zora Neale. ""How It Feels to Be Colored Me"." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume D. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2007. 1710-1713.
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