illustrated portrait of African American author Zora Neale Hurston

How It Feels to Be Colored Me

by Zora Neale Hurston

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What can you infer about Hurston's  character in Lines 4-25?

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In the second paragraph, Hurston tells us that she was among the more "venturesome" who would come out on the porch to watch Northerners pass through her village of Eatonville. While others in the community "peered cautiously from behind the curtains," she came out on the front porch. She was not only curious, but bold:

"The front porch might seem a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat for me."

Given the period, it would have made sense for black people to be wary of white strangers passing through town. Therefore, the front porch—a leisurely spot—becomes "a daring place." For a child, however, who does not yet know that she is "colored," it becomes the space from which she can watch white passersby. It is her "gallery seat." 

Notice, too, that in this passage from the third paragraph, Hurston points out that she is making a spectacle of the white strangers when, typically, it was the other way around:

"Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn't mind the actors knowing that I liked it."

Again, because she is a child, she has the freedom to get a little familiar without risking her life. She can express her amusement at the strangers and not be regarded as insolent. She is so comfortable and open with these strangers that she offers to "go a piece of the way" with them to their destination—an offer that her family cannot allow, of course.

In other words, young Zora is free to speak to whomever and to do whatever she pleases because she does not yet know that she is "colored." These passages reveal less about who Hurston was as a child than they reveal about childhood itself.

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