Masterplots II: African American Literature Dust Tracks on a Road Analysis - Essay

Zora Neale Hurston

Masterplots II: African American Literature Dust Tracks on a Road Analysis

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Like many autobiographies, Dust Tracks on a Road provides a flattering portrait of its author. Zora depicts herself as an intelligent young girl whose love of reading provides the inspiration for her staying in school. Her mother’s advice to “jump at de sun” fuels her determination to succeed. Readers come to admire her for her fortitude and her unwavering optimism.

Such optimism reflects a blindness to her surroundings, however, and causes readers to lament her naïveté. Her belief in the ability to control destiny and in individual responsibility for fate precludes recognition of both social and historical forces. In an amusing and revealing scene, Hurston recalls a black man who insisted on having his hair cut at the “for-whites-only” barbershop where she worked. Acknowledging her sanctioning of Jim Crow, she says, “I wanted him thrown out too.” In an effort to defend herself, Zora says that putting her concerns for her job first is just “human-like,” “an instinctive thing.” Zora’s belief in the ability of the individual to overcome all odds does not allow her to identify with the black man who was testing the strength of unfair laws, nor does it allow her to understand his objective and purpose. Hurston’s refusal to speak out against segregation cost her many friends.

Hurston’s view of history seems equally shortsighted. In “Looking Things Over,” she remarks that she sees “nothing but futility”...

(The entire section is 441 words.)