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"invisible Man" Comparative Essay

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Their Eyes Were Watching God and Invisible Man Essay

Life has never been easy for African-Americans. Since

this country's formation, the African-American culture has

been scorned, disrespected and degraded. It wasn't until

the middle of the 21st century that African-American

culture began to be looked upon in a more tolerant light.

This shift came about because of the many talented

African-American writers, actors, speakers and activists

who worked so hard to gain respect for themselves and their

culture. Two writers were on the front lines of this

movement, Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison. Their

novels, Invisible Man and Their Eyes Were Watching God,

probed deeply into the life and culture of the

African-American, something that was practically unheard

of. But not only did their novels shed light on the

African culture, but they also shifted away from the

traditional Romantic style of writing. Instead of focusing

on religion or society, these novels focused on

self-awareness, pride, and finding happiness. The merit of

these novels pervades every page, but can especially be

found in the themes, diction, and characterization.

Both novels shared two similar themes: the pursuit of

happiness and self-actualization. These themes had to be

dealt with tenderly in an intolerant, white-culture

society. Both Hurston and Ellison did this beautifully, in

that their stories were not forceful nor preachy, but

merely simple, candid tales of the lives of two ordinary

African-Americans. Also, both authors refused to make

their stories a fairy tale. At the end of each novel,

neither Janie nor Invisible Man are as happy as they'd like

to be. But, both novels focus not on the bittersweet end,

but rather what the characters learned before they reached

the end. Janie realized that her strength was in herself

and her pride, with or without Tea Cake. And Invisible Man

realized that "My problem was that I always tried to go in

everyone's way but my own" (pg. 573), and so took to

hibernation, to "shake off the old skin" and start living a

life he could be proud of." In the end, despite some

dissatisfaction, both characters knew who they were and how

to pursue the happiness they craved. By using these two

themes, both Hurston and Ellison took a dramatic leap of

faith. These themes add the uniqueness and non-conformism

of the stories themselves.

Neither Hurston nor Ellison hid any part of their culture

to be politically correct; this fact is especially visible

in the authors use of diction in their novels. In Their

Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston employs slang and

colloquial language throughout the novel. In fact, almost

half of the novel is in this form. An excellent example of

this writing style is found on pg. 87 when Janie says "Ah'm

gone tuh de house. Lemme know when dat ol' pee-de-bed is

gone and Ah'll be right back." Ellison uses some

colloquial diction and slang, but not nearly so much, since




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