How does Hurston define herself?

In "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," Zora Neale Hurston defines herself as a wonderful, eclectic individual who routinely defies simplistic categorization.

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In her essay “How It Feels to be Colored Me,” Zora Neale Hurston defines herself as a unique individual who can’t be readily reduced to any one group or demographic.

Moving into specifics, look at the first sentence. Right way, Hurston defines herself. “I am colored,” she announces. But later in the essay, Hurston separates herself from other people of color. “I am not tragically colored,” she states. She is not the kind of person who remains invariably saddened by the horrible injustices of slavery. Hurston acknowledges that her grandparents were slaves. However, a couple of sentences later, she reminds readers, “Slavery is 60 years in the past.”

Indeed, Hurston is not the kind of person who dwells on what happened. In her essay, Hurston defines herself as someone concerned with what’s happening right now.

I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep.

Yet Hurston’s emphasis on the present doesn’t mean that she’s totally dismissive of the past. She’s aware that she would not be on her “bully adventure” right now if not for her ancestors. Thus, Hurston is conscious of history, but she’s also attuned to her obligation to carry out her “greater chance for glory” and live a wonderful life.

Sometimes, Hurston’s definition of herself changes slightly. When she’s around white people— when she’s “thrown against a sharp white background”—Hurston feels “most colored.”

Yet this scenario isn’t central to her identity. Overall, Hurston defines herself as delightfully messy. She can’t be conveniently categorized. She is a “jumble of small things priceless and worthless.” In a sense, Hurston is an eclectic individual—as are all people, she implies.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 18, 2021
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