Analysis

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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 520

“Drenched in Light” by Zora Neale Hurston is a short story that explores the life of Isis Watts. Isis is a young black girl in rural Florida, and she is the reason the title of the story is “Drenched in Light” because that is a description of Isis. The story follows Isis as she walks through her day, causing mischief and living life to the fullest. Those who see her can feel the light and life radiating off of her, and Hurson describes her as “Isis the Joyful.”

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The joy that Isis exudes is meant as a commentary on the fact that race and money are not an indicator or prohibition of joy that people find in life. Isis, despite being poor, young, and living in a strict household with her grandmother can find joy and excitement in life. Hurston shows the joy that can happen even in poverty and restriction by showing different occasions where others are impacted by their time with Isis.

For example, when she sees the Robinson brothers, white cattle ranchers, and waves to them on the road, Hurston describes the experience as,

Everybody in the country, white and colored, knew little Isis Watts, Isis the Joyful. The Robinson brothers, white cattle-men, were particularly fond of her and always extended a stirrup for her to climb up behind one of them for a short ride, or let her try to crack the long bull whips and yee whoo at the cows.

The cattle ranchers, more privileged than Isis in a society that saw them as inherently more valuable because of their skin color, still derive a lot of joy from their experience with her. Their lives, from a materialistic standpoint, are infinitely better than hers, but she is still the one who finds more joy in life—she is enjoying her life more than they are and they gain something from being near her. This is something that happens over and over again.

Throughout the entire story, we see people who should be happy, should have joy and light and life because of their circumstances, that still pale in comparison to the young girl who has nearly nothing in life. At the end of the story, that point is driven home by the white couple who pick Isis up in the forest—they are wealthy, sophisticated, and active in society—but they still lack joy.

It is no small wonder then that the woman offers to take Isis to dance for her at the end of the story—remarking, “I would like just a little of her sunshine to soak into my soul. I would like that alot.”

Hurston shows in the story that joy and the enjoyment of life are not something that derives from race, social class, or material possessions. Instead, joy is a disposition of the soul towards life. Isis, a young girl, can impart joy to others by the way she lives life—by her participating in new experiences and seeking to enjoy things for themselves. She dances, she waves, and she experiences it all—just for the sake of the experience.

Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

Hurston had both an eye and an ear for her folk material. One of her trademarks was the use of dialect. The stories and folklore that she collected and translated into her writing were from an oral tradition. To preserve this form of African American expression, Hurston mastered the art of presenting black vernacular speech in written form. Isis, Grandma Potts, Isis’s brother Joel, and even the Robinson brothers (local white cattlemen) speak in the local dialect throughout the story, in contrast to the white lady, who speaks in educated English.

Grandma Potts in particular represents family and tradition, and it is from her mouth that the most colorful speech in the story emerges. She speaks the opening line of the story: “You, Isie Watts! Git ’own offen dat gate post an’ rake up dis yahd!” Frustrated by Isis’s failure to...

(The entire section contains 1194 words.)

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