What is the role of Eatonville in the story, and how does it connect to Hurston's own experience with her past?
As is usually the case, there is much of the artist in the art. Zora Neale Hurston was born in 1891, but no birth records can be found. Her family lived in the town of Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black township in the United States. In her literary efforts, Hurston drew from this experience both dialect and narrative.
In Eatonville Mr. Hurston was the mayor for three terms, where he prospered; he also became a minister and pastor of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. After Mrs. Hurston died when Zora was only nine; her father remarried, but Zora and her stepmother did not get along. As a result, her father sent her to a Baptist boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. But, before she left, some Northern schoolteachers gave the bright girl some books that opened her mind to the world of literature. Perhaps, then, this happy experience coupled with the financial comfort and love that Hurston experienced before her mother died remained romantically in her mind. Certainly, Eatonville provided the young Zora with a wealth of African American cultural experiences from which to draw.
Noted author Alice Walker discovered in 1973 a buried--literally and figuratively--Zora Neale Hurston and brought to light works that had been lost to the American consciousness, reviving interest in them in a 1975 issue of Ms. magazine. There Alice Walker writes that “everything Zora Neale Hurston wrote came out of her experience in Eatonville” from which she creatively drew facts.