Arvay’s Epiphany in Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee Essay

Arvay’s Epiphany in Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee Essay

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Arvay’s Epiphany in Hurston’s Seraph on the Suwanee


In the middle of Chapter four, we find Jim and Arvay in the middle of a journey to the courthouse; the reader, halfway through the journey from the top of the page encounters an interior journey as Arvay travels within herself. This four-line passage serves as a milestone marking the beginning of the narrative, which is a journey across the landscape of the life of Jim and Arvay’s relationship. The passage begins with “The elements opened above Avery and she arose inside of herself”(57). The first clause of this sentence has a poetic eye focusing on an atmosphere, or an aura rising and expanding around Arvay’s form, perhaps circular, like the break in clouds whereby a ray of sunshine appears, suggesting even further, the halo, or the circle of seraphim as described in the words of the prophets. The coordinating conjunction “and” begins the second clause, implying the synchronous relation between the outer sky change, and the inner event of rising “inside of herself.” In this sense her experiences, her conversation with Jim, her anxieties about her “secret sin,” her religious drive converge and for a brief space are unifying, interlocking, affirming and redeeming. The mystical language employed reveals a kind of “interpenetration.” That this epiphany comes at the moment when she is discussing her own rape with the man that raped her shows the way in which she thinks about her experiences. Also, this passage shows how Jim speaks to her in ways that produce thoughts and feelings that she cannot seem to find words for annunciation. Her mystical language contrasts sharply with Jim’s straightforward sentences, recalling the title of the novel, Seraph on the Sewanee. After reading...


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... complex allowing no passage to Jim or anyone else. The epiphany resulting from her sacrifice “under the mulberry tree” exemplifies how Jim talks to her, but she cannot respond in ways that he can understand, leaving her helpless to the world around her while Jim is continuously carrying her off over further horizons. Throughout the book she continues this movement upward and outwards into the world, though with the limits of her tongue. In the end, as she becomes reconciled with the world she discovers the “Resurrection” where “Human flesh was full of mysteries and a wonderful unknown thing”(350). If the epiphany at the conclusion of the novel marks point Omega, then the Alpha point comes in this passage in the middle of Chapter four at the moment she tries to place her relationship with Jim, and the suffering from the rape within her understanding of the Cosmos.

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