Richard Wright’s Misperception of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
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It is strange that two of the most prominent artists of the Harlem Renaissance could ever disagree as much as or be as different as Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. Despite the fact that they are the same color and lived during the same time period, they do not have much else in common. On the one hand is Hurston, a female writer who indulges in black art and culture and creates subtle messages throughout her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God. On the other hand is Wright, who is a male writer who demonstrates that whites do not like black people, nor will they ever except for when they are in the condition “…America likes to see the Negro live: between laughter and tears.” Hurston was also a less political writer than Wright. When she did write politically, she was very subtle about stating her beliefs.
After analyzing a few synopses of Richard Wright’s works, it is clear that he used violence to make his political statements. It is not just the actions of Wright’s characters in The Native Son and Uncle Tom’s Children that are violent; in many cases, Wright himself seems very sensitive to any sort of racial provocation. In The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, he details a few of his encounters with racial oppression. Many of them feature violence, and his reflections of his experiences become less and less emotional, almost as of this was all he had come to expect from whites.
It is most likely because of his incidents with whites that Wright does not approve of “Uncle Toms,” black people who act as if they are white or try to please white people. In “Between Laughter and Tears,” his review of the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a famous black female novelist, he accuses Hurston of a...
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———. “Stories of Conflict.” The Saturday Review (New York), April 2, 1938.
———. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 2006. Reprint, New York: Harper Perennial: Modern Classics, 1937.
Kinnamon, Keneth. The Emergence of RIchard Wright: A Study in Literature and Society. 1973. Reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972.
“Richard (Nathaniel) Wright (1908-1960).” Books and Writers. http://kirjasto.sci.fi/rwright.htm (accessed August 2, 2010).
Wright, Richard. “Between Laughter and Tears.” In Zora Neale Hurston: Critical Perpectives Past and Present. Edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and K. A. Appiah., 16-17. New York: Amistad Press, Inc., 1993.
———. The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch. New York: Viking Press, 1937.