Of Neocolonialism In Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

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Janie seeks autonomy and personal freedom of choice throughout her life in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, but she is constrained to varying degrees by the three men that she successively marries: Logan Killicks, Jody Starks, and Tea Cake. Contemplating Hurston’s novel through the borrowed lens of colonialism—or more specifically neocolonialism—allows for a study of the novel from an enlightened vantage point. It is the aim of this research to illustrate the manner in which the neocolonial devices employed by Hurston provide modes of control for the husbands to manipulate their environments and ultimately, Janie, who populates them. A brief biographical overview is called for in order to provide background and sufficient context, which in turn create a powerful lens with which to resolve Hurston’s work into sharper focus. The anthropological approach taken in investigating Hurston’s novel is particularly appropriate considering that Hurston was awarded a research fellowship in nineteen-twenty-seven, which provided her the opportunity to study under Franz Boas, a world-renowned anthropologist, at Barnard College (Polk and Tiegreen 181). Her first foray into ethnographic fieldwork under his direction led her to Florida in an attempt to collect folklore, and even though it was not a notably profitable expedition, it taught her “the most important aspect of her anthropological research: the importance of immersing herself in the community she studied” (Polk and Tiegreen 182). Subsequently, and significantly, Hurston made her way back to Florida and covertly embedded herself in a logging community located in the Everglades to conduct her research, which resulted in a treasure-trove of African-American tales (Polk a... ... middle of paper ... ... The final feature of neocolonialism is demonstrated by the development of conditions of social domination and prejudice (King 27 Aug. 2012). Hurston clearly demonstrates this in Their Eyes Were Watching God: the African-American men in the novel stereotype women, and perpetuate the biased behavior that they themselves are subjected to in the segregated society wherein they are dominated by white men and women under the auspices of an imbalanced socio-cultural milieu which placed African-Americans at the lower end of the continuum which it comprised. As whites blame African-Americans for their condition and excuse the use of domination and prejudice as necessary in order to protect and take care of them, African-American males, in turn, employed the very same line of reasoning to subjugate the African-American females within their own ethnically-constructed society.

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