Themes, Origins, and Construction of Hurston's Story

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A major figure of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Zora Neale Hurston published more books in her lifetime than any other African-American woman, spoke at major universities and received honorary doctorates, and was described in the New York Herald Tribune as being one of the nation's top writers. Her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is widely considered a masterpiece today, and one of the most important works of fiction ever written by an African-American woman. Alice Walker insists in the foreword to Hurston's biography: "There is no book more important to me than this one." Yet Hurston died in poverty in 1960, and was buried in an unmarked grave. In an essay published in 1972, biographer Robert Hemenway describes her as ''one of the most significant unread authors in America.'' The following year, however, Walker traveled to Florida to find and honor Hurston's grave. According to scholars Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke in the ''Introduction" to The Complete Stories a rising black feminist movement "seized upon [Hurston] as the canonical black foremother." This recognition thus restored Hurston's place in the American literary landscape.

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Hurston was notable as a novelist, short story writer, critic, and also as the country's most important collector of African-American folklore. Born and raised in the small, all-black community of Eatonville, Florida, she had a lifelong interest in anthropology and returned to Eatonville after graduating from Barnard College in New York City to study her townspeople. She frequently used material she gathered in her anthropological work in her fiction. "The Eatonville Anthology" is based on real people and real events of Eatonville, and Hemenway considers it to be Hurston's most successful attempt to "fuse folklore and fiction."

While Hurston achieved success during her lifetime, she could be controversial and provocative as well. Her writing might be considered ' 'politically incorrect" by some. Hurston's use of dialect and stereotypes in her writing has received praise from critics, but she has also been faulted for portraying African Americans negatively. Hurston's views on race relations were also controversial. She told at least one reporter that she opposed desegregation, though as Walker pointed out, a woman from an all-black town where blacks held all positions of power could quite reasonably see little to be gained from integrating with whites.

Hurston's writing differed sharply from other women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. It frequently rejected upper middle-class values, it employed African-American dialect, and her female characters were interested in sex. Critic P. Gabrielle Foreman holds in her essay in Black American Literature Forum that Hurston was unlike other black women writers such as Jessie Redmond Fauset and Nella Larsen. Foreman feels that these writers ''composed books, draped among other things, with women who don heavy silks and satins and who adorn their satiny yellow skin with pretty party dresses described in detail." Hurston wrote of characters whose response to life was visceral, and who lived according to the rituals of their own communities.

Hurston frequently had to struggle to make a living in the latter part of her life. After interest in black literature and art waned at the end of the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston ceased to write about the people and customs of Eatonville. She turned toward a more conservative choice of material: her last published novel, Seraph on the Suwanee, concerned the lives of white characters, a radical change in subject matter for Hurston. Her book after that, which she had been toiling over when she died, was a biography of the Roman ruler Herod the Great, the rebuilder of Jerusalem's Great Temple.

Hurston's "The Eatonville Anthology," first published in The Messenger magazine in three installments in 1926, has attracted attention for a variety of reasons. Critic Heiner Bus examines "The Eatonville Anthology" in his essay "The Establishment of Community in Zora Neale Hurston's 'The Eatonville Anthology' and Rolando Hinojosa's 'Estampas del valle'." Bus discusses Hurston's story in the context of other well-known works about American small-town life, such as Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology (1915), Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (1919), Sinclair Lewis' Main Street (1920), and Thornton Wilder's Our Town (1938), all of which were written by white men. Bus sees similarities between the works of mainstream and minority authors but believes that themes like community and continuity, certainly prevalent in ''The Eatonville Anthology," (in segment XI, Double-Shuffle, for example), have "special connotations in the work of ethnic writers." The need for community and identity is particularly felt by minorities who live within a larger mainstream society. Bus 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." Hurston's portrayal of Eatonville gives her community visibility and power. Hurston's remarkable ear for dialect and use of authentic detail captures the words of her townspeople just as they would have spoken them.

Hemenway sees the significance of "The Eatonville Anthology" as "Hurston's most effective attempt at representing the original tale-telling context [and] the best written representation of her oral art."

He further observes that "The Eatonville Anthology" is the "literary equivalent of Hurston's memorable performances at parties. The reader has the impression of sitting in a corner listening to anecdotes.'' Some of the events described in ''Anthology" actually occurred in Eatonville—for example, the thieving dog Tippy and Mrs. Tony Roberts, the pleading woman, among others, were real according to Hemenway. Other events in the story are based on "folktales or jokes known not only to Hurston but to many other traditional storytellers.'' Hemenway continues: ''Joe Lindsay, the greatest liar in the village, tells a tale so common that folklorists have classified it as Type 660: 'The Three Doctors.''' Heiner Bus comments on Hurston's use of the Brer Rabbit tale in a footnote to his essay, noting that the Brer Rabbit story appears in both the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend and in The Book of Negro Folklore. According to his interpretation, ''projecting human behavior into the animal world signifies ... an effort to conjure up imperial power in a situation of oppression."

Hurston incorporated pieces of traditional African-American folklore into "The Eatonville Anthology, '' and one of the most interesting aspects of the story is the way she later used bits of it again and again in her other works. Alice Walker observes: "Everything she experienced in Eatonville she eventually put into her books. Indeed, one gets the feeling that she tried over and over again with the same material until she felt she had gotten it right.'' For example, the real mayor of Eatonville, Joe Clarke, appears in "The Eatonville Anthology" and also turns up later in Their Eyes Were Watching God, as Mayor Jody Starks. Segment JX of "Eatonville" which focuses on Joe's unhappy "soft-looking, middle-aged" wife becomes the seed for Jody and Janie's relationship in the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Bus observes that Daisy Taylor, of segment XU, reappears in an unpublished play Hurston wrote with Langston Hughes entitled Mule Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life. The Brer Rabbit segment appears again in Hurston's collection of folklore, Mules and Men. Critic JoAnne Corawell sees Brazzle's mule of segment VII in ''Anthology'' in the mule belonging to Matt Bonner in Their Eyes and pleading Mrs. Roberts, of segment I, still pleading in the form of Mrs. Robbins, also in Their Eyes. Hemenway reports that the events of segment II, Turpentine Love, are repeated in Seraph in the Suwanee, except with white characters instead of blacks. He also points out the events described in ''Pants and Cal'line'' are based on Hurston's Aunt Cal'line and her Uncle Jim in her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, with one notable difference.

The difference highlights a further reason. "The Eatonville Anthology" is important to study: the story was overlooked (or treated carelessly) in much the same way Hurston herself was overlooked in the latter part of her life. According to Hemenway, a "printing mishap" caused "Pants and Cal'line," (Segment XIII) to "go incomplete" when the printer or editor apparently lost part of the story. In the real-life incident that is the basis for this section, Hurston's aunt tracked down her husband at the home of one of his mistresses and returned home with his pants slung over an axe. In ''The Eatonville Anthology," the axe that Cal'line is mysteriously carrying on her way to Delphine's is never explained. The reader never learns the outcome of the confrontation, nor is the significance of the "Pants" of the title ever explained. According to Hemenway, "the error does nothing more than indicate some of the loose editorial practices of the understaffed, underpaid, overworked Messenger office," the Messenger being the "only radical Negro magazine in America'' at that time. The omission was not intentional, but nonetheless, as Andrew Crosland points out, ''The Eatonville Anthology" has been reprinted in several anthologies, due to "the Hurston revival," but without the explanation necessary to understand the story.

Hurston's talents were recognized and applauded during the Harlem Renaissance, then largely forgotten for years. Studying "The Eatonville Anthology" will further the reader's understanding and appreciation of the town that gave rise to this story and the larger works that grew out of it as well.

Source: Judy Sobeloff, for Short Stories for Students, Gale Research, 1997. Judy Sobeloff is an instructor at the University of Michigan and the winner of the PEN Northwest Fellowship writing residency award.

Zora Neale Hurston as Local Colorist

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Since Zora Neale Hurston's death in 1960, an impressive number of artists and scholars have rescued her from an undeserved obscurity, best symbolized by her burial in an unmarked grave in a segregated potter's field. They have restored to her in death the fame and following that eluded her in life. Hurston's rescue began in 1973 when Alice Walker flew to Florida and visited Lee-Peek Mortuary in Fort Pierce to locate the cemetery where Hurston is buried. Finding what she believed was the grave, Walker then had a monument erected for the site. In 1977, Robert Hemenway published her biography, Zora Neale Hurston, to national acclaim. Both Walker and Hemenway pay respect to a writer whom Barbara Christian in Black Women Novelists and Henry Louis Gates in "A Negro Way of Saying'' correctly assert is the literary model for the contemporary African-American female writer who writes realistic fiction of black women seeking self-fulfillment and self-empowerment. Since Mary Helen Washington's lament in Black-Eyed Susans (1975) about Hurston's neglect in literature and women's studies courses across America, Hurston's most popular novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), has become a perennial classroom favorite. There is an annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Hurston's hometown, Eatonville, Florida, which N. Y. Nathiri, one of Hurston's most devoted loyalists, coordinates. In 1991, Nathiri edited an informational book, Zora!, on Hurston and Eatonville, containing memories of the writer by relatives and friends.

From those who misunderstood her, like Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, who thought her ''black-minstrel'' characters were created to humor a patronizing white audience, to those who loved her, like Alice Walker, Mary Ellen Washington, and Barbara Christian, who thought her a controversial but brilliant feminist, Zora Neale Hurston has stirred the emotions of critics and devotees in a variety of ways and has been called alternately minstrel, novelist, anthropologist, voodoo priestess, feminist, and folklorist. I think her real significance as writer-folklorist is best summarized by her biographer, Robert Hemenway, who writes:

Zora was concerned less with the tactics of racial uplift than with the unexamined prejudice of American social science. She became a folklorist at a time when white sociologists were obsessed with what they thought was pathology in black behavior, when white psychologists spoke of the deviance in black mental health, and when the discipline of anthropology used a research model that identified black people as suffering from cultural deprivation. Hurston's folklore collections refuted these stereotypes by celebrating the distinctiveness of traditional black culture, and her scholarship is now recognized by revisionist scientists questioning the racial assumptions of modern cultural theory

Because the Eatonville townspeople were the models of Hurston's factual and fictive folksy, cultural richness, I find that she emerges most clearly as something that no critic, to my knowledge, has yet remarked upon: local colorist. Local color as a genre and technique emerged after the Civil War in 1868 with Bret Harte's "fresh pictures of California mining camps,'' although in its nineteenth-century manifestations local color often painted a rather shallow, genteel picture of life. But the concept has undergone considerable changes because of writers like Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Zora Neale Hurston. Critics now 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....

Florida's rich topography, the Eatonville community, and Joe Clarke's store porch are permanent features in Hurston's local colorist works. Eatonville is at the heart of her upbringing, from living in this all-black town to attending an all-black school to being an inheritor of an all-black oral tradition, revived gloriously and hilariously on a local entrepreneur's front porch where people gathered to bask and bake in a hot Florida sun. When Hurston writes in "How It Feels to be Colored Me" that she is not "tragically colored" and does not belong to the ''sobbing school of Negrohood who hold[s] that Nature somehow has given them a ... dirty deal," we look to the proud racial heritage of the Eatonville community to understand and appreciate her racial pride.

This was no easy feat in the Jim Crow decades of the 1920s, 30s and 40s when African-Americans were made to feel their apartness from the rest of humanity by ubiquitous signs that read ''For Whites'' and "For Coloreds." Hurston's attitude and her emergence as a local colorist was bolstered by Columbia University anthropologist and scholar Franz Boas, a German emigre, who encouraged Hurston as a Barnard College student to develop the anthropological tools required to enable her to return to Eatonville and collect, record, and examine the rich folk material passed around matter-of-factly on Clarke's store porch. It was Boas who questioned the theory of Anglo-Saxon superiority in the twentieth century, stating it ''is hardly possible to predict what would be the achievement of the Negro if he were able to live with Whites on absolutely equal terms."

Hurston's return to the South and to Florida was essential to her development as scholar of local culture and to her legacy as a precursor of Afrocentric scholars. Boas and Hurston knew that unlike black Northerners, black Southerners retained distinct Africanisms due to the rigidity of a Southern antebellum and post-bellum racial system that kept whites and blacks separated, culturally as well as physically. In Mules and Men Hurston writes: ''I hurried back to Eatonville because I knew that the town was full of material and that I could get it without hurt, harm or danger ... As I crossed the Maitland-Eatonville township line I could see a group on the store porch. I was delighted."

Many of the folktales Hurston retells are a curious blend of the townspeople's healthy racial ethnocentrism, rooted and nurtured in a region that appears lovely but primeval, and their hilarious racial stereotyping. Consider the tale of Gold, a bold woman who enters the male-dominated sanctuary of Joe Clarke's porch and tells the tale of how God "gave out color":

... one day He said, 'Tomorrow morning, at seven o'clock sharp, I aim to give out color. Everybody be here on time. I got plenty of creating to do tomorrow, and I want to give out this color and get it over wid. Everybody be' round de throne at seven o'clock tomorrow morning. So next morning at seven o' clock, God was sitting on His throne with His big crown on His head and seven suns circling around His head. Great multitudes was standing around the throne waiting to get their color God sat up there and looked east, and He looked west, and He looked north and He looked Australia, and blazing worlds were falling off His teeth So He looked over to His left and moved His hands over a crowd, and said, 'You's yellow people' .. He looked at another crowd... and said, 'You's red folks!' He looked towards the center and moved His hand over another crowd and said, 'You's white folks!'.. .Then God looked way over to the right and said, 'Look here, Gabriel, I miss a lot of multitudes from around the throne this morning'. .. Gabriel run off and started to hunting around. Way after while, he found the missing multitudes lying around on the grass by the Sea of Life, fast asleep. So Gabriel woke them up and told them Old Maker is might wore out from waiting. Fool with Him and He won't give out no more color'... they all jumped up and went running towards the throne, hollering, 'Give us our color! We want our color1 We got just as much right to color as anybody else'.... [they were] pushing and shoving God said, 'Here! Here! Git back! Git back!' they misunderstood Him, and thought He said, 'Git black' So they just got black, and kept the thing-a-going

A favorite Hurston remark to be found in almost all of her fiction is "the porch laughed" or "the porch was boiling now." The use of metonymy stresses the communal gathering on Joe Clarke's store porch and the townspeople's enjoyment. The tall-tales had, also, the distinction of breaking the monopoly of daily tedium while encouraging the socialization of men and women who were miraculously transformed on the porch into griots, poets, and philosophers. Hurston makes the reader cognizant of a congenial, group-like ethos of Eatonville society. The people were one. According to Levine, even this communal oneness is rooted deeply in the early African-American experience and its slave legacy. Levine argues that "in the midst of the brutalities and injustices of the Antebellum and post-bellum racial systems, black men and women were able to find the means to sustain a far greater degree of self-pride and group cohesion than the system they lived under ever intended for them to be able to do.'' Joe Clarke's store porch was not only a place for entertainment and cultural exchanges, it was, too, a safe haven, sheltering locals from a larger hostile environment while creating the illusion (or perhaps the reality) that no other world existed or mattered....

Finally, Zora Neale Hurston develops a distinctive African-American female voice in literature. It is a voice deeply rooted in the African-American experience from Africa to America. As a local colorist, Hurston presents an intimate portrayal of lives changed and yet strangely unchanged by the experiences of the African Diaspora. By capturing the reality, the vivacity and the cultural wealth of the Eatonville community, Hurston immortalizes folk characters and their spirited survival and expands the meaning of local color. She proves once and for all that while physical bodies can be restricted, the imagination is always free.

Source: Geneva Cobb-Moore, "Zora Neale Hurston as Local Colorist," in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring, 1994, pp 25-34.

The Text of Zora Neale Hurston: A Caution

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Several times during Zora Neale Hurston's career, the printed texts of her works did not reflect her exact intentions. These textual corruptions hurt her reputation as a creative artist. Unfortunately, the textual problems that recurred during her lifetime have also haunted the posthumous revival of her reputation begun by Alice Walker in 1975.

Zora Neale Hurston first published "The Eatonville Anthology" serially in the 1926 September, October, and November issues of the Messenger. The work consists of fourteen parts variously based on folk tales, jokes, or Hurston's childhood memories. This composite communicates the black ethos which nurtured the author in her early years.

The thirteenth piece in "The Eatonville Anthology," published at the end of the segment appearing in the October Messenger, treats a confrontation between Sister Cal'line Potts and her roaming husband Mitchell. She spots him sneaking away to visit his girlfriend with a gift of new shoes. The betrayed wife picks up an axe and stalks him, much to the amusement of the idlers at Clark's store who watch both pass. Then the story ends abruptly.

Sister Cal'line and Mitchell are mentioned nowhere else in the "Anthology," and their fate is never disclosed. Readers are further perplexed by the title of this piece,' 'Pants and Cal'line,'' because the story contains no reference to pants. Robert Hemenway, Hurston's biographer, offers an explanation. He says that ''a printing mishap caused ... "Pants and Cal'line" to go incomplete, the printer or editor apparently losing part of the story.''

"The Eatonville Anthology'' was not reprinted during Hurston's lifetime, so she had no opportunity to publish a corrected text. She did, however, tell the story again in her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. This version is about Hurston's Aunt Caroline and Uncle Jim. In it, Caroline follows Jim to his girlfriend's house, breaks in using the axe, and chases away her husband, who is in his underwear. She follows him home, her axe draped with his pants and a pair of new shoes. This telling of the story provides a satisfactory ending for "Pants and Cal'line" and explains the title.

Hurston died in poverty and obscurity in 1960, her literary reputation at its nadir. In 1975, Alice Walker published "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" in Ms, beginning a revival of Hurston's literary reputation. Four years later, Walker edited a collection of Hurston's work titled I Love Myself When I Am Laughing ... and Then When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive. This book reprints the corrupted text of ''The Eatonville Anthology'' as well as the excerpt from which tells the story again. The two pieces are not printed side-by-side, end no editorial note links them. Yet the alert reader should be able to determine what is missing from the "Anthology."

The Hurston revival is apparently successful, and a growing number of works by and about her are making their way into print. "The Eatonville Anthology" has been included in The Norton Book of American Short Stories (1988) and in The Norton Anthology of American Literature (1989)....

Source: Andrew Crosland, "The Text of Zora Neale Hurston: A Caution," in CIA Journal, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, June, 1994, pp 420-21.

The Establishment of Community in Zora Neale Hurston's 'The Eatonville Anthology'

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In his Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography Robert E. Hemenway highly praises "The Eatonville Anthology'':

It is pure Zora Neale Hurston. part fiction, part folklore, part biography, all told with great economy, an eye for authentic detail, and a perfect ear for dialect ... It is Hurston's most effective attempt at representing the original tale-telling context .. the best written representation of her oral art

"The Eatonville Anthology" consists of fourteen individual pieces. In contrast to Edgar Lee Master's Spoon River Anthology (1915) the titles of the sections do not disclose an apparent ordering device, although the combination of place name and "anthology" implies a deeper kinship between the two works, particularly their view of small-town life as a feature of the past.

Most of the fourteen sections open with a statement on the outstanding quality of a character which defines his social status. Whenever this introduction refers to a negative quality, the narrator rushes to the character's help with a modification such as ''Coon Taylor never did any stealing'' or an extensive explanation like:

Becky Moore has eleven children of assorted colors and sizes. She has never been married, but that is not her fault. She has never stopped any of the fathers of her children from proposing, so if she has no father for her children it's not her fault. The men round about are entirely to blame

By this strategy the narrator signals approval of these individual attitudes and the responses of the community: stealing Coon Taylor has to "leave his town for three months" only. In the case of Becky Moore the women of the town isolate her children to prevent contamination. Only the town vamp, Daisy Taylor, eventually leaves for good after overstepping the limits of the townspeople's tolerance. But even here the narrator closes in an ironic and conciliatory tone: "Before the week was up, Daisy moved to Orlando. There in a wider sphere, perhaps, her talents as a vamp were appreciated."

Without deeply probing the psyche or the history of these figures, the narrator and the citizens of Eatonville pragmatically consider even the self-imposed isolation of some of its members constituent for their community. This fact accounts for the static, anti-climactic nature of the place had its portrayal. In hardly any of the stories are the basic situations subject to change. We learn of some unsuccessful efforts in the past to correct obvious iniquities. Generally, however, people just feel amused and entertained like the prospective reader or listener.

The World War, the coming of the railroad, and the departure of individuals occasionally cause physical and spiritual movement depicted as the loosening of morals and the questioning of social rituals. Only when these phenomena endanger institutions guaranteeing the survival of the community do people start reacting: The women e.g. violently defend the family. Normally, the communal self-defense mechanisms are still functioning. Change but complicates matters as the narrator indicates: ''Back to the good old days before the World War, things were simple in Eatonville." Continuity is felt or at least pretended within a generation and between the older and younger ones. The general refusal to examine the many dimensions of an individual character perfectly matches with this denial of change by eagerly overrating the stereotypical, the communal rituals. The reader perceives change mainly as a function of biological processes, i.e., the eventual death of the people portrayed.

Though the narrator makes frequent use of irony, he basically shares the attitudes and values of Eatonville. Quite often he adapts his syntax and vocabulary to the plainness of what he is telling. The repetition of words, phrases and situations, the narrator's and his figure's falling back on proverbial wisdom, expose the ritualistic quality of the experience. In the "Village Fiction" sequence the narrator even joins the lying contest with one of the town characters. Nevertheless, his command of various language registers signals detachment. With the exception of the closing formula, Black English is exclusively used whenever the characters are allowed to speak up for themselves. With evident delight in verbalization and in the tasks of the arranger he draws Eatonville as a collection of types permanently re-enacting stereotypical social encounters, thus assigning to this community permanence and continuity, affirming his characters' desire to resist fundamental change.

The selection and positive acknowledgment of repetitive social action as a typical feature of a small Black community is based on a profound respect for individual conduct and a deep trust in the correspondence of human emotions. Hurston closes her "Anthology" with a Brer Rabbit tale explaining why the dog and rabbit hate each other. In contrast to the preceding "crayon enlargements of life," the folk tale displays a firm cause-and-effect relationship. But it refers to a collective, not an individual phenomenon of the animal world, detached from a specific time and place. It is set ''Once way back yonder before the stars fell." Projecting human behavior into the animal world signifies a reality-thinking desire, an effort to conjure up imperial power in a situation of oppression.

These observations should make us see the stabilizing functions of storytelling as demonstrated in the folk tale and the whole "Anthology." By closing with a brer Rabbit story, Hurston transfers its strengths at weaknesses to her portrait of a specific community. The formula "Stepped on a tin, mah story ends'' lifts the spell on the folk tale and the whole cycle whose individual themes and situations were already adapted to the typical features of the folk tale. The re-construction of Eatonville as a community establishes a complex interrelation between the narrator and his material and an equally strong communion between storyteller and his prospective audiences; it is folklore in the making. Storytelling is as repetitive as the situations re-enacted and described. Zora Neale Hurston hints at the importance of cultural identity through ritualization in "Double-Shuffle" where the males turn the formal dancing into a celebration of the Black musical folk traditions. Before releasing the listener into his own ambiguous world, the process of selection, verbalization and repetition, affirming and denying the restrictions of the individual life, of the singular community, of place and time, has magically fulfilled the basic human need for identification and permanence and has defeated the notions of isolation and transitoriness.

By a process of transformation Hurston retrospectively liberates her characters and their stories from the conditions dominating the individual life, change and eventual death. This procedure asks for the capturing of a phase of small-town life, freezing it, making it disposable exactly as her characters prefer the collective, repetitive, stereotypical phenomena to experience continuity and familiarity. Whenever and wherever change occurs, Hinojosa's characters tend finally to accept it in view of their own ineffectuality. Hurston's figures frequently ignore or deny change in spite of their just-as-remarkable powers of acceptance.' "The Eatonville Anthology" deliberately withdraws this place from the temporal process while Hinojosa leaves Belken County open for change and extinction, as his authorial retreat at the beginning implied. Of course, both techniques basically acknowledge the fact that the two traditional societies have been destroyed..,.

Zora Neale Hurston returned to the Eatonville setting in various stories, novels, her autobiography, a folklore documentation, a drama, and in some of her essays. Her hometown provides a positive communal mood and morality, source of identification for herself, her characters, and a place where storytelling is practiced. This locality is never exposed to change and development; sometimes even characters and situations recur in later works. The pervasive spirit of the place just receives different status among the structural elements of the texts. Only in Their Eyes Were Watching God, in her autobiography, and in Mules and Men do we occasionally get contrastive images of other places and social entities. Some texts appear to be mere enlargements of the condensed Eatonville sketches, reversals of the folklore-in-the-making process.

The static quality of the place in the ''Anthology" and in all her works seems to contradict Hurston's belief in vitality, in her well-developed sensitivity to contradictions as displayed in her essays and her autobiography. These irritations can be dissipated when we take into consideration that the author assessed the values of Eatonville retrospectively, with a sense of loss, from the distance of her Northern experience. The term "anthology" in the title confirms this perspective. Eatonville is conceived and presented as a reconstructed phase of Black communal life before the distortions through acculturation claimed their toll. For didactic purposes the illusion of permanence has to be established to re-activate the sources of communal ethnic identity. In some of her essays Hurston refused to let the racial question confine her life and art. She rather dedicated her fictional and documentary works to the re-vitalization and celebration of the heritage, putting it out of the reach of the majority culture....

Source: Heiner Bus, "The Establishment of Community in Zora Neale Hurston's 'The Eatonville Anthology' (1926) and Rolando Hinojosa's 'Estampas del valle' (1973)," in European Perspectives on Hispanic Literature of the United States, edited by Genvieve Fabre, Arte Publico Press, 1988, pp. 66-81.

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