Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 344

After suffering many years in obscurity, Hurston's work began to garner more critical attention in 1973. In that year, noted African-American author Alice Walker traveled to Alabama to find and mark Hurston's grave. This event marked the beginning of a renewed interest in Hurston's work.

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"The Eatonville Anthology" has attracted critical attention for a variety of reasons. Initially, critics examined this story in relation to other anthologies such as Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. In his essay entitled "The Establishment of Community in Zora Neale Hurston's "The Eatonville Anthology' and Rolando Hinojosa's 'Estampas del valle'," critic Heiner Bus sees similarities between the works of such mainstream male writers and Hurston's story. The need for community and identity is felt particularly by minorities who live within a larger mainstream society, claims Bus. He writes: "The trust in the power of the word as a tool to overcome powerlessness, forced muteness, is a first step towards identity and visibility as a group."

Robert Hemenway discusses the significance of "The Eatonville Anthology" in his book Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography. He calls the story Hurston's "most effective attempt at representing the original tale-telling context [and] the best written representation of her oral art." Hemenway further praises "The Eatonville Anthology" for its festive mood, which conjures the image of Hurston telling stories at a party. Integrating her interest in anthropology into her fiction, Hurston incorporated traditional African-American folklore into her tales of Eatonville.

As a source of local color, "The Eatonville Anthology" is a treasure of African-American dialect and central Florida rural geography. Critic Geneva Cobb-Moore discusses this aspect of the story in her essay ''Zora Neale Hurston as Local Colorist." Cobb-Moore writes: "Florida's rich topography, the Eatonville community, and Joe Clarke's store porch are permanent features in Hurston's local colorist works." The critic elaborates on Hurston's significance, noting that literary critics "have come to acknowledge the national or even universal dimensions and implications of regional literature and see it as echoing certain moral and historical truths about our humanity."

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