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In “Between Laughter and Tears,” a review about Their Eyes Were Watching God, Richard Wright (author of Black Boy and Native Son)writes of Zora Neale Hurston:
Miss Hurston can write, but her prose is cloaked in that facile sensuality that has dogged Negro expression since the days of Phillis Wheatley. Her dialogue manages to catch the psychological movements of the Negro folk-mind in their pure simplicity, but that’s as far as it goes. Miss Hurston voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theatre, that is, the minstrel technique that makes the “white folks” laugh. Her characters eat and laugh and cry and work and kill; they swing like a pendulum eternally in that safe and narrow orbit in which America likes to see the Negro live: between laughter and tears. . . The sensory sweep of her novel carries no theme, no message, no thought. In the main, her novel is not addressed to the Negro, but to a white audience whose chauvinistic tastes she knows how to satisfy. She exploits that phase of Negro life which is “quaint,” the phase which evokes a piteous smile on the lips of the “superior” race.
Richard Wright’s criticism reminds us that African American writers of the Harlem Renaissance often created pieces that were supported or consumed by white audiences. Is he accurate in his assessment of Hurston? How does Hurston handle the complications of the writer-audience relationship? In what ways does she live up to the expectations of a predominantly white audience, as understood by Wright? How does Hurston challenge these expectations? Use examples from the novel as well as secondary sources to support your argument.
1500 Words minimum ( not including the Works Cited). Remember to follow MLA format. Use Times New Roman font, double-space, number your pages, and provide a Works Cited page. Listed in the Works Cited should be the primary source(s) and a minimum of four secondary sources (an article, book, or other materials that you have found in your research; at least two must be peer-reviewed). Whatever is listed in the Works Cited should also be cited parenthetically in the body of your essay.
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