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

Zora Neale Hurston's essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" is tightly structured, with an anecdotal introduction of four paragraphs, a nine-paragraph body which sets out the principal issues, and a four-paragraph conclusion. The final paragraph is devoted to an extended simile, which the author uses to demonstrate the trivial nature of skin color by comparing people to different colored bags with similar contents.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Zora Neale Hurston's essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" contains seventeen paragraphs, some of them no longer than a couple of lines. The essential structure of the essay is as follows:

Paragraphs 1–4: This is the introduction and childhood anecdotes. The author introduces herself, establishes the light-hearted tone of the essay, and tells stories of her childhood, in which she enjoyed performing for white people and saw no differences based on skin color. The thesis of the essay, that skin color is unimportant, is introduced here.

Paragraphs 5–13: this is the main body of the essay, with examples and anecdotes from adolescence and adulthood. The author introduces conflict, which she says is always external and never internal. She herself has never seen her color as a matter of any importance, but other people insist that the legacy of slavery and the prevalence of racism should scar her for life. This section also abounds in anecdotes and examples.

Paragraphs 14-17: this is the conclusion with an extended simile. The author concludes by restating her own position that race is a trivial matter, and that if other people choose to discriminate against her, this is their problem. Her remarks to this effect occupy three short paragraphs (14, 15, and 16). The essay then ends with a longer paragraph devoted to a simile, in which Hurston compares people to bags filled with various pieces of junk and treasure, which give no indication of the contents when viewed from the outside.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial