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A Biographical Criticism: Spunk by Zora Neale Hurston

The story Spunk by Zora Neale Hurston reveals various themessuch as voodoo practice and the male sexuality that all makes theplot more interesting. In this case, Hurston uses the two maincharacters Joe and Spunk that are fighting over Lena that is Joe’swife. The scenario shows the presence of the male sexuality andvoodoo as they are fighting over Lena. The story uses the brokenEnglish dialect that is evident throughout the plot of the story. Thebroken English dialect helps in revealing the uneducated anduncultured community that Hurston presents. Apart from that, the samedialect introduces the readers to the voodoo practices and theconflicts and the male sexuality too. This essay looks at the brokendialect and how it also reflects on Hurston background. Evidently,the essay reveals Hurston’s background and much more information onthe various issues she has undertaken as an adult and researcher too.In this case, Hurston uses the broken English dialect in ensuringthat the reader understands the plot as a part of the community andthe dialect also identifies the cultures, level of education as wellas voodoo practices in the community.

In this story, the broken English dialect directs the readers intoidentifying the way that the residents of that community have a lowerlevel of education. The lower level of education is evident in theway that the residents are engaging each other using some brokenEnglish that is typical with the Southern region. The reader willunderstand the community is simply a small rural town with peoplethat have a lower level of education and they do not have much goingon with many of the characters like Elijah spending their days in theStore narrating stories. The dialect also brings the issue ofunderdevelopment since the Hurston does not address any kind ofrecent development in the region too. The approach will be effectivein understanding how the community works and identifying all thespecific themes evident in the story. The Caribbean region is alsoknown to have the voodoo practices that are incorporated into theplot of the essay. Hence, the broken English dialect helps in showinghow the voodoo works as well. In fact, the approach shows that sheadopted the voodoo practices from the Caribbean region andincorporated the same into the short story. It is evident that “shemakes no judgment of the rightness or wrongness of such beliefs butpoints out that these beliefs are very much a part of the culturalmilieu of Eatonville” (Carson). It seems like she embraces thepractices and does not look at it from a judgmental perspective aswell. The scenario helps in Hurston presenting the various themeswithout being bias or even judging the practice from a point ofsomeone that is educated. Instead, the readers understand it from thecharacter’s viewpoint, and they are even led to believe that voodoois real, and Joe’s ghost seems to haunt Spunk. Even the likes ofElijah believe that the ghosts are responsible for his death provinghow strong their beliefs are.

The short story captures the background information on the way thatHurston has traveled to the Caribbean and the Southern America too.The fact that the broken English dialect shows some signs of Jamaicanpidgin also aligns with her background. That shows that Hurston keepspicking concepts from her real life and applies them to the shortstory too. In fact, her understanding of the Caribbean culture isevident in the plot of the story and that shows how she keepsborrowing stuff from her background to make it more interesting.Hence, the readers also get a chance to interact and understand whatHurston wants to create in the short stories that will make themappealing to the readers. Evidently, Hurston looks at “thecharacters, who are black working-class southerners, use a variety ofnonstandard English” (Jones). In this case, the movement in theCaribbean region led to Hurston having enough knowledge on the voodoopractices. The same exposure is really crucial in helping her revealhow the ghosts work in the society. In fact, the approach also makesthe reader understand the story from the eyes of the community andeven believing that the ghosts are real. That arises from the vastknowledge that Hurston has on the voodoo practices and she makes thecharacters interact with the theme perfectly as well. Apart fromthat, the power of the voodoo even makes Spunk unable to shoot sincehe is afraid that the black bob cat is Joe. Even after Spunk diesthrough an accident, the community still believes that the Joe’sghost is responsible for all that. It is a way to illustrate how thecommunity believes in the voodoo practices in the long-run. Thatscenario also makes it hard for the reader to understand each andevery statement that the characters keep making as the plotprogresses.

The same broken English dialect illustrates how the male sexuality isa common scenario in the Southern region. Given that Hurston comesfrom the Southern region also shows how he values her background andkeeps referring to some scenarios that were evident from the sameregion too. In particular, the broken English dialect captures theconversation between Joe and Spunk to reveal the hatred between thetwo men as well. In fact, the entire conversations make the readersto look at the characters from the perspectives of the communitymembers. For instance, Elijah seems to taunt Joe and some of hisstatements even lead to him attacking Spunk to revenge the way thathe took his wife. With all that, it is evident that the dialect isreally crucial in revealing certain themes and helping the readersunderstand the themes that the story depicts. The broken Englishdialect also “demonstrates Hurston`s interest in exploring andfiltering the rich and complex dynamic of a patriarchal `villa,` malesexuality, and heterosexual relationships” (Atkinson).It is evident that the dialect looks into the conflicts that Joe andSpunk had. In this case, the two men are fighting over Lena, and eachof them wants to have Lena’s attention. The description fits intothe typical male sexuality where men associate strength with theirability to have the beautiful women. Hence, the two men will mostlikely engage in any activity that will prove their ability to haveLena. In the end, Hurston captures the typical nature of the youngmen that are focused on protecting anything especially if it isassociated with a lady they love. It also shows that Hurston appliesher upbringing and anything associated with the people around her inpainting the themes in the short stories she creates. The scenarioshows that Hurston will often talk about the things she grew upexperiencing or even saw happening in the southern region.

The broken English dialect also takes the reader to the ruralsouthern blacks that are often uncultured and will use violence inreaching most of the goals they want to. The approach helps incapturing the perfect setting to help in painting the picture thatmakes the story more interesting. Evidently, Spunk“effectively employs the dialect of rural southern blacks and itexplores the complexities of romance, violence, and superstition”(Evans). The aspect arises from the way that she was raised in therural Southern region. Hence, the story is based on her backgroundwhile growing up and her later years too. In this case, sheincorporates violence into the story as Spunk and Joe resorts tofighting to determine who will be the right choice for Lena. Hurstonworks effectively in dealing “with issues of courage and love, buton another level she created a story that is itself about the art ofstory-telling” (Cynthia). The scenario shows how people in thesouth will often use violence to solve some of the issues they mightbe facing. In fact, the same description also reveals how unculturedthey are and their failure to apply reasoning in most of theactivities they might be undertaking. Often, a cultured communitywill devise some mature way of dealing with issues as opposed toviolence instead. The same masculinity and the violence are also thecause of Joe’s death as evident in the description provided.Evidently, “when Joe confronts Spunk in an effort to defend hishonor and masculinity, Spunk shoots and kills him” (Atkinson).The scenario shows how Hurston has grown in an area that people useviolence as a way to protect their image and the pride that isassociated with the masculinity that they have. In the process, ithelps in getting into Hurston’s background and understanding thethemes based on the community that Hurston has created in thelong-run as well.

In conclusion, the broken English dialect in the story Spunk helps ingetting a better view of the community that Hurston has presented inthe story as well. In this case, the dialect reveals how Hurstonconnects her life background to the story and reveals how variousissues work in the society. For instance, the dialect reflects on theBlack community from the Southern region where Hurston originatesfrom. The dialect also shows that the community in the short story iscomposed of some uneducated people since they are unable tocommunicate in well-structured sentences as well. In the process, italso introduces the readers to the voodoo practices that Hurston hadinteracted with in her intensive research in the Caribbean. Theapproach also adds up to the drama that the community is facing andalso makes the plot much more enjoyable too. The voodoo practices andthe male sexuality are also evident in the dialect that Hurston usesin the presentation of the story. All in all, the dialect worksefficiently in creating mystery and making the readers understand thecommunity from the character’s point of view. The approach alsomakes the story interesting since various themes arise from thedepiction of the characters in the story.

Works Cited

Atkinson,Yvonne. &quot`Spunk`.&quot In Samuels, Wilfred D., ed.&nbspEncylopediaof African-American Literature.New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007.&nbspBloom`sLiterature.Facts On File, Inc. Web. 30 June 2016&lthttp://www.fofweb.com.proxygsu-gwt1.galileo.usg.edu/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&ampWID=106923&ampSID=5&ampiPin=EAFL353&ampSingleRecord=True&gtWeb.

Bily, Cynthia. &quotSpunk.&quot&nbspShortStories for Students. Detroit:Gale, 2002.&nbspLiteratureResource Center. Web. 30 June2016. from:

&lthttp://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CH1420022913&ampv=2.1&ampu=gtechclg&ampit=r&ampp=GLS&ampsw=w&ampasid=f0255f3c54032246b6f42dca89920ad3&gtWeb.

Carson,Warren J. &quotZora Neale Hurston.&quot&nbspCriticalSurvey of Short Fiction: American Writers.Ed. Charles E. May. Hackensack: Salem, 2012. n. pag.&nbspSalemOnline.Web. 01 Jul. 2016. &lthttp://online.salempress.com&gtWeb.

Evans, RobertC. &quot’Spunk‘.&quot In Evans, Robert C., ed., and Patricia M.Gant, gen. ed.&nbspStudent`sEncyclopedia of Great American Writers: 1900 to 1945,vol. 3. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2010.&nbspBloom`sLiterature.Facts On File, Inc. Web. 30 June2016&lthttp://www.fofweb.com.proxygsu-gwt1.galileo.usg.edu/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&ampWID=106923&ampSID=5&ampiPin=SEGAWIII1155&ampSingleRecord=True&gtWeb.

Jones, SharonL. &quot`Spunk`.&quot&nbspCriticalCompanion to Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Reference to Her Life andWork,Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009.&nbspBloom`sLiterature.Facts On File, Inc. Web. 30 June 2016&lthttp://www.fofweb.com.proxygsu-gwt1.galileo.usg.edu/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&ampWID=106923&ampSID=5&ampiPin=CCZNH0227&ampSingleRecord=True&gt.Web.