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Zora Neale Hurston

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* This tendency toward the picaresque colors her work. Her main characters are dreamers who long for experience and spiritual freedom and want to break with the fixity of things.

* Hurston's works celebrated blackness, and she became an enthusiastic contributor to the New Negro Renaissance literary movement.

* "Spunk" illustrates Hurston's growth in the way she shows rather than tells about the characters. Her dialogue, using the rural black dialect of central Florida, reflects this increased narrative strength.

* Hurston seems more sure of her special expertise--the richness of Eatonville's folk beliefs.

* Hurston succeeds in blending the vivid and intense fire of passions in this portrait of the marriage of a black couple, Delia and Sykes Jones. Set in Eatonville, the story shows how the hard work ("sweat") of Delia is counteracted by the hatred of her adulterous husband, who beats her brutally after two months of marriage, openly flaunts his extramarital affairs from the beginning, and chooses as his mistress a woman named Bertha, a big, fat "greasy Mogul ... who couldn't kiss a sardine can ... throwed out de back do' 'way las' yeah." Delia has slaved over whites' laundry to earn a living for fifteen years; she alone has paid for the house, and now Sykes promises to give the house to Bertha. To scare off his wife, who is terrified of snakes, he first tries taunting her with his snakelike bullwhip. When the "long, round, limp and black" whip falls across her shoulders and slithers along the floor beside her, she is so frightened that "it softened her knees and dried her mouth so that it was a full minute before she could cry out or move." When that does not work, he pens up a rattlesnake near the back door. As a final resort, Sykes tries to kill his stubborn wife by placing the deadly snake in the clothes hamper just before she is to sort the clothes. Delia escapes the poisonous fangs, but Sykes is bitten and dies. Delia refuses to warn or even help him, having understood finally how deadly his hatred of her has become; she watches him with "his horribly swollen neck and his one open eye shining with hope."

* As in several of Hurston's stories, the woman is strong, proud, independent; the man does not appreciate these strengths because he feels emasculated



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