What is the characterization in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?

The characterization in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" focuses on the persona of the author, Zora Neale Hurston, a vibrant, upbeat, outgoing, and feisty Black woman.

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Because Hurston is writing from her own perspective in "How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me," the characterization in this essay involves Hurston characterizing herself. Hurston presents herself as feisty, vibrant, likable, and upbeat. She is determined not to let her race or the discrimination she might face for it get her down.

Hurston characterizes her younger self as a bright, outgoing child who is glad to meet and perform dances for the Northern white tourists passing through the town. She characterizes her adult self as equally vibrant and engaged with life. She enjoys the fruits of both the white and Black spheres, going to the white women's Barnard College while enjoying the pulsing rhythms of Black jazz music. She is confident and well-dressed, writing,

I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance.

Hurston leaves readers in no doubt that she can conquer life with her sassy attitude and her "sharpened ... oyster knife."

Hurston also presents one-dimensional characters to act as foils to herself. For example, she contrasts her wild, full-bodied, pulsating internal response to jazz music with the measured reaction of an unnamed white companion:

"Good music they have here," he remarks, drumming the table with his fingertips.

She also uses the character of the "sobbing school of Negrohood," those Black people who dwell on injustices, to highlight her own exuberant desire to focus on all that is positive.

In characterizing herself as the upbeat and feisty central character for her essay, Hurston provides inspiration to her readers.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 18, 2021
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