In Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Hurston takes a stock figure from African American literature and lore, the folk preacher, and imbues him with real human characteristics in a successful effort to show the character as a human being, subject to the same strengths, weaknesses, and shortcomings of other human beings rather than as a godlike being who is unaffected by human frailties. Also, because Hurston relies heavily on details from her personal experience—Jonah’s Gourd Vine is loosely based on her parents’ biographies—the characters are all the more real and compelling.
The characters are presented in a more or less straightforward narrative manner; there are few if any experimental techniques. The central characters, John Pearson and his wife Lucy, are presented as complex, wholly believable characters with tragic flaws that prove, especially in John’s case, to be their undoing.
The plot is likewise developed in a linear fashion. Although the ending—with John’s death after he is struck by a locomotive—seems gratuitous and melodramatic, it is nevertheless believable within the context of the story.
John Pearson is presented as a man with many conflicts; however, it is his uncheckable tendency to be a “man amongst women” that is presented as so incompatible with his role as pastor of a Baptist congregation. His inability, perhaps his refusal, to control his sexual appetite leads to his downfall....
(The entire section is 501 words.)