Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 587
This short story by Zora Neale Hurston opens with the booming voice of Grandma Potts as she demands her granddaughter, Isis Watts, to get down from their gate post and continue working on the yard. With this one quote, we are immediately given a glimpse of their relationship, as well as their individual temperaments: Grandma's adherence to social strictures and her no-nonsense approach lies in stark contrast to Isis's fun-loving, curious nature, which fuels her to playfully balance on top of boundaries before nonchalantly crossing them:
You Isie Watts! Git 'own offen dat gate post an' rake up dis yahd!
Isis Watts is a free-spirited little girl whose energy makes her naturally act beyond the limits of being lady-like. As Grandma Potts accosts her for every single account of her perceived misconduct, Isis satisfies one little behavioral detail only to disobey another, causing a series of bellows from Grandma Potts who, as we find out, is very particular in micromanaging the way her granddaughter carries herself based on how she perceives women must conduct themselves:
Isie sat bold upright as if she wore a ramrod down her back and began to whistle. Now there are certain things that Grandma Potts felt no one of this female persuasion should do—one was to sit with the knees separated, 'settin' brazen' she called it; another was whistling, another playing with boys.
Despite Isis's seemingly boundless nature, she still operates within the context of household duties, particularly one defined by gender roles. This demonstrates the strict division of labor among boys and girls within these households. It also offers us a glimpse into Isis's character as one who carries a streak of naughtiness but weaves this within a sense of responsibility:
Being the only girl in the family, of course she must wash the dishes, which she did in intervals between frolics with the dogs.
Isis then goes on a streak of "misdemeanors" all caused by her innocent desire to help. Beginning with daydreaming under the table and imagining herself in luxurious robes riding white horses to the edge of the world, she turns her attention to the gray chin hairs trembling under each breath of her snoring grandmother. She...
(The entire section contains 587 words.)
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