What is the overall tone of "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?

The overall tone of "How it Feels to Be Colored Me" is one of light-hearted, vibrant optimism.

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Tone is the emotional attitude a piece of writing conveys. In her essay "How it Feels to Be Colored Me," Zora Neale Hurston communicates a tone of relentlessly vibrant optimism about the possibilities that come with being a Black woman in the 1920s United States.

Word choices convey feeling and tone. Hurston uses bright, upbeat words, such as "adventure," "thrilling," and "exciting" to describe her view of life. She speaks of "dancing wildly" inside herself at a jazz club and uses the image of "the eternal feminine with its string of beads" to describe how she sees herself. All of this verbiage conveys a sense of upbeat hope and joy about what life has to offer her regardless of the color of her skin.

Hurston also uses humor to convey her optimism and sense of individuality. She begins the essay by making a joke about the number of Black people who also claim Native American ancestry, writing,

I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief.

She uses hyperbole or exaggeration to set herself apart from the beginning as her own person. This leads to another technique that Hurston employs to convey feeling: she repeatedly contrasts herself in a positive way to what she calls the "sobbing school of Negrohood." If others are going to take a negative attitude towards being Black or dwell on injustice, she is not. Others can spend time complaining, but she is going to "sharpen" her "oyster knife" and do battle with life. She will enjoy both being a student at all-white Barnard College (today part of Columbia University) and feeling the rhythms of a Black jazz club. A typical upbeat utterance is her response to racial discrimination:

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?

This light-hearted, almost giddy tone conveys energy and allows the reader to sense her confidence.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 17, 2021
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