In what ways does the town react differently to white Northerners than they do to white Southerners?

In "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," the town reacts with curiosity to white Northerners but ignores white Southerners.

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Zora Neale Hurston describes her childhood in the small, all-Black, backwater town of Eatonville, Florida. Both Southern and Northern whites come through the town from time to time. The Southerners ride through on horseback to get to and from Orlando.

White Northerners who come to Florida as tourists sometimes amble through the town in their cars. In this case, some residents will come out on to their porches; Hurston will wave and say hello. Sometimes, white people stop and Hurston will sing or dance for them and earn dimes.

Regarding the difference between Northern and Southern white people, Hurston writes,

The native whites rode dusty horses, the Northern tourists chugged down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped cane chewing when they passed.

The fact that the townspeople "never stopped cane chewing when they passed" implies that the Southern white people were of little to no interest to them. The wealthy Northern tourists, however, are a source of curiosity. The reaction of the townspeople to Northern white people is decidedly different:

But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.

Thus, the town reacts differently to white people from the North by being interested in them and observing them while ignoring white people from the South. Hurston herself reacts differently from the rest of the town, however: instead of "[peering] cautiously from behind curtains" or merely coming out to the porch to watch, Hurston waves, speaks to, and otherwise interacts with the passersby.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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