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Analysis of Zora Neale Hurston's Spunk

In: English and Literature

Submitted By kirbijames
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Zora Neale Hurston’s use of language in her short story Spunk allows the reader to become part of the community in which this story takes place. The story is told from the point of view of the characters, and Hurston writes the dialogue in their broken English dialect. Although the language is somewhat difficult to understand initially, it adds to the mystique of the story. Spunk is a story about a man that steals another man’s wife, kills the woman’s husband and then he ends up dying from an accident at the saw mill. Spunk believed that it was Lena’s husband, Joe Kanty, who shoved him into the circular saw, and the people in the village agreed that Joe Kanty had come back to get revenge. The language used by the characters helps to establish the setting of the story and gives the reader an understanding of why voodoo is a plausible explanation for the outcome. “Looka theah folkses!” is what Elijah Mosley states to the others in the store. This is the first indication that the characters in this short story are not the most educated, and are probably from some small backwoods town. We quickly get confirmation of this when we learn that he is alerting them that Spunk Banks, a giant, brown-skinned man, “who aint skeered of nothin’ on God’s green footstool”, is sauntering up the one street in the village, with a small pretty woman clinging lovingly to his arm. Clearly, the store is where people hang out, and everyone knows that the woman with Spunk is Lena Kanty, Joe’s wife. Coming from a large city, I would not expect everyone to know each other, so seeing a couple walking down the street would not be significant to me. In this context however, I understand that something is not right and trouble is coming. When Joe walked in to the store, the talking ceased; the men looked at each other and winked. “Say, Joe, how’s everything up yo’ way? How’s yo’…...

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