- What is the evolution of the cakewalk? How significant was it really and did it stay an imitation?
- Does the inclusion of cakewalk into blackface diminish or advance the image of the “new negro”?
One thing I noticed when reading “Color Struck” and “John Redding Goes to Sea” was the discussion of how the women in the tales behaved. To be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable with how Matty and Stella treated John in “John Redding”, and with how Emma treated John in “Color Struck”. In both tales, the women are clearly made out to be the villains in the story with their unreasonable demands, refusal to listen to reason, their attitudes, and their jealousy. I wondered, why was the focus of these stories so clearly on these bad women? What was the point of making sure that these characters were so clearly in the wrong, to the point where readers might feel almost hatred for them?
You might find this website useful: Zora Neale Hurston Digital Archive
Can we relate colorism, as described in the intro to Color Struck, to the Irish in America – the way they were able to access whiteness. Is colorism an attempt by Black Americans to do the same, to find some better foothold in the ascribed hierarchy, or is there something else that drove it?
What significance do the the final few stage directions in Color Struck have, the monotony of the rocker and the extinguishing of the light?
This question may be more tangential and less directly thematically related, but thinking about Synge and Hurston, what does it mean for drama to be used as a medium of preservation? By nature, drama is meant to be exaggerated and performative. Does or should that change how we see what is presented or is it different in the case of each writer or dramatist?
Does the description of John Redding’s body floating in the water reflect Jesus’ death? (arms outstretched, torn clothing, struck by wood, mixing blood and water) Is John Redding a Christ figure? What point could Hurston be making about Christianity here?
Does the cakewalk in Color Struck change the way you view the cakewalk in In Dahomey? How do the plays differ in the way they preserve the cakewalk?
- How do the similar deaths of men in Riders to the Sea and John Redding Goes to Sea use the images of the sea, or more specifically the Atlantic, to show the struggles of the characters? With both men dying, do the respective authors believe that life in this transatlantic world should be pursued? Are members of a community externally determined to stay there?
- How has the theme of mixed race changed from an earlier work such as The Octoroon into Color Struck?
- How does John’s death relate to the desire for social and cultural change in the Harlem Renaissance? Is Hurston using his attempt to pursue his own path a critique at artists who try to deviate from pre-existing African American traditions and customs in their art, as opposed to her belief that they should be carried on?
In John Redding Goes to Sea, John is repeatedly described as “queer.” Is this meant to be taken as meaning odd, gay, or both?
Would John have been able to leave if he hadn’t gotten married? Why don’t the women want them to leave? Are there forces greater than the women that are keeping these men tied down? How does this compare to Irish men trying to leave their homes?
I also found the point about “the new refusing to acknowledge the old” in Color Struck to be very interesting. What does this do to the act of cakewalking? Does it help the blacks to make it more their own?
- In Color Struck and John Redding Goes to Sea, issues arise which lead to marriages in the stories being unfulfilled. Are these failed marriages reflective of Hurston’s skepticism of Christianity or something else?
- Both stories end with the death of a child, but in opposite circumstances. John Redding dies after he leaves his family while Emma’s daughter dies when Emma is almost on the brink of creating a full family. Does Hurston believe the family unit itself is a flawed structure or does this go along with her ideas of Christian marriage?
In “John Redding,” happiness is portrayed through weeping (p. 6) and, at the end, Alf claims to be “happy” for his son because he is going to the sea (p. 16). Additionally, Hurston describes the many things that black laughter can mean in Mules and Men (p. 62). Why is emotion portrayed this way and does that change the way we relate this work to keening, another emotive action?
What is the significance of the sea as a hopeful thing in “John Redding” against the depiction of the sea as dangerous (to people and cultures) in Synge and the history of the slave trade?
One thing that I have been thinking about since our discussion on Zora Hurston was the fact that she didn’t support conventional religion, specifically catholicism & christianity. From her point of view it is understandable as to why she opposes christianity, however, given her background and how her life turned out, I think it would’ve been beneficial for her to turn to some form of religion. I think her dislike of christianity was partially fueled by her resentment towards white people (amongst other personal views), but part of the reason I feel it could have been beneficial is because religion can be used as a tool to build communities.
Specifically speaking towards the Renaissance and Radicalism article, after learning about the Harlem Renaissance and some of the trials and tribulations that black people went through in redefining the “negro identity”, black people were represented by many great figures but at times it seemed like they were not on common ground. For example, when the Irish were integrating within America they were very unified. From the jobs they participated in, to the messages they wanted to portray to the public. Irish nationalist organizations were formed based on their catholic background, and that allowed them to have a social & political presence within different communities. With that being said, if you look at the NAACP, although there was a common goal to ensure the rights of colored people, they are fighting a battle of color, and it would’ve benefited them to “change” the narrative. To a country that “claims” to value christian and catholic beliefs, if they would have taken the stance of being united based on their similar religious values, I think it would have made black people more unified and make it harder for the opposition to challenge them on the basis of color.
Although there have been many great black leaders, they all approached black nationalism from different angles. Yes the ultimate goal may have been the same, but the steps to get there were too different. Christianity doesn’t have to be the religion that unites them, but when you have some blacks that are Christian, some that are muslim, and some that are non-believers, they are inevitably going to run into a problem. It is easy to oppress people when they are divided amongst themselves.