How does the town of Eatonville connect to the heritage of the characters and also to the larger dynamic of the novel, including the dialect?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The town of Eatonville is central to the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, showing a model of a free black society rather than one existing in the context of slavery or recent liberation from slavery. It shows how African-American culture developed in a context where black people were able to own businesses and build careers. Natives of the town, like Hurston herself, grew up with a secure belief in the equality or even superiority of blacks, rather than an experience of blacks as uneducated slaves. Eatonville stands for the possibility of a black culture flourishing in independence from white oppression, and even more, one in which rather than people being defined as white or black, they were simply people. On the other hand, the culture of Eatonville is strongly patriarchal, and thus even if it is a haven from racial oppression, gender oppression is still rampant in it.

In the novel, Hurston, who herself was an anthropologist, makes extensive use of the vernacular dialect of Eatonville, giving a strong regional flavor to the novel.