Choosing Sides in Their Eyes Were Watching God and Lone Star
A major theme in multicultural literature is the search for identity by those of more than one culture. In most cases, one of these cultures is recognized as being more advantaged and powerful than the other. In John Sayles's Lone Star and Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, bicultural characters negatively stereotype members of their own "inferior" or "less advantaged" background in order to identify themselves with their more powerful culture. The artists ultimately illustrate, however, that choosing sides is an unnatural option and that mixed heritages can have their own advantages.
People of more than one culture often have trouble fitting into either; as Pat Mora suggests in her poem "Sonrisas," they "live in a doorway / between two rooms"[Mora]. For example, in Lone Star, Mercedes, who was born in Mexico but resides in Texas, lives up to Mora's description of a "legal alien"--someone who is seen as "an American to Mexicans / A Mexican to Americans"[Mora]. Sheriff Buddy's refusal to publicly acknowledge or inform his son of his affair with Mercedes shows that she does not totally belong to American culture. Mercedes also has trouble fitting in with the Mexican community. Her employees' lack of respect for her indicates her alienation. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mrs. Turner, who is also of mixed heritage, fits in with neither African-Americans nor whites. She laments that although she has "white folks' features in [her] face...[she is still] lumped in wid all de rest [of the African-Americans]"[Hurston, p.211] by Whites, with whom she tries to be identified. On the other hand, she is also not "usete...
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...ation if they learn to incorporate both cultures into their personalities. Like Dorothy's ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, Mercedes's restaurant serves as an example of a perfect solution that was always right in front of her face. The restaurant, which employs an American work ethic but serves Mexican food, becomes a metaphor of her newfound cultural harmony. Sayles suggests that she will have better relationships with her daughter and grandson as a reward for her recently expanded perceptions. Mrs. Turner, on the other hand, never consciously accepts her situation and therefore receives no such reward. On the contrary, she is ostracized by both white and African-American communities. The contrast between Mercedes's dynamism and Mrs. Turner's stasis in this respect proves Otis Payne's assertion in Lone Star that "blood is what you make of it."
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