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“A genius of the South, novelist, folklorist, anthropologist”–those are the words that Alice Walker had inscribed on the tombstone of Zora Neale Hurston. In the essay How It Feels to Be Colored Me, Zora explores her own sense of identity through a series of striking metaphors. After realizing that she is of color, Hurston never really places a significant emphasis on the racial inequalities that exist in America. “At certain times I have no race, I am me.” Zora Neale Hurston did not have any separate feelings about being an American and colored.
“But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.” She is saying that there is no shame in her color. Hurston did not want to conform to a race, to a color, she tried to be herself. She was not afraid to be different, she knew she was special.
How It Feels to Be Colored Me, makes it clear that she wants to be recognized as an individual. In paragraph 7 she wrote “the operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you.” Hurston was referring this to slavery and how it did not bother her. That was something in her past and she is moving on from it. Hurston’s audience was guided towards young African American adults who feel the same way about race or color. In the first paragraph she says “. . . except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States.
Because this is one of the first sentences of this essay, it sets the tone for the whole piece. It shows that Hurston’s attitude towards herself is very positive. Many readers could feel the way she feels, wanting to get attention and being noticed. She wanted to be known for someone who was not just another colored person. Many people want to be noticed and not just by their race or skin color. Zora knew that she still stood out from everyone else, but in the end of it all, no one is really “different”. Zora Neale Hurston gets her purpose across by her use of language and sentence structure. “I remember the day I became colored.” This is the day that she realized what white people thought of her and anyone else who was colored. Hurston uses many metaphors in this piece to vividly describe the expressions of her self-realization. “I left Eatonville, the town of the oleanders, as Zora.” Hurston used the word oleanders instead of another flower to explain that on the outside they are beautiful, but inside very poisonous.
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